TOM DAVIS: Being better is often irrelevant in regards to ‘March Madness’

First-year Butler University men's basketball coach LaVall Jordan speaks with the media prior to a practice Tuesday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

INDIANAPOLIS – If LaVall Jordan ever tires of teaching ball-screen defense, he may have a professional future in politics.

The first-year Butler University men’s basketball coach put on his best “do the Washington walk” shoes Tuesday when asked about the NCAA Tournament selection process and tap-danced around the controversial subject.

“I don’t want to be on the selection committee,” Jordan said. “I think that they have a very tough task.”

No it doesn’t.

The only thing that the committee members find difficult to do is use sound judgment.

Read the following out loud and then tell me that it is sensible:

“USC finished second in the Pac-12 with a 12-6 league record, while Arizona State finished 8th with an 8-10 record. Therefore, the Sun Devils deserve a bid into the tournament over the Trojans.”

If that makes sense to you then go lease a car because you obviously enjoy making moronic decisions.

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Jordan was being politically correct because he is in the infancy of his head coaching career and the last thing that he wants to do is be offensive to anyone. It just isn’t his personality. However, I never developed that trait so I’ll call something asinine when I think it is.

And the NCAA Tournament selection process is as asinine as it can be.

“There are really good teams, really good coaches, and really good programs,” Jordan continued, “you can only get 68 in and that is the challenge.”

No it’s not.

It’s not a “challenge” to get the proper 64 (which is what the number should be) teams in at all. It just takes the ability to have standards, of which the NCAA doesn’t possess.

And Jordan should know that (he does, truth be told), because he’s been involved in screwing a team out of a bid.

In Jordan’s freshman season as a Bulldog player, his team spent two months getting beat in nearly half (6 of 14) of its Midwestern Collegiate Conference games, only to get hot for a week and steal an NCAA bid from two teams Detroit and UIC (12-2 in league play that year) that were significantly better.

I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I believe that a program should be rewarded for sustained strong play against its peers, as opposed to 120 minutes of good execution.

In addition, I’m not going to feel bad for writing that Arizona State, Florida State, Syracuse, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Alabama, AND Butler don’t deserve to be included in the field this year.

Each of those teams failed to win more games this season against its peers (league play) than they lost.

“It’s just a tough job to have to select at this point,” Jordan said, “and I don’t know what metrics they use, so I’m glad that I don’t have to do it.”

I know one “metric” that isn’t used, and that is actually having success – on the court – against your peers.

USC had more success within the Pac-12 than both Arizona State and UCLA, but didn’t get in, while the Sun Devils and Bruins did.

The same can be said of Stanford and Washington, which were better in league play than Arizona State, but they also got snubbed.

The same can be said of Oklahoma State, which finished with the same record in Big 12 play as its state and league rival (Oklahoma), beat the Sooners two out of three games, AND had a better overall record, YET Oklahoma was awarded a bid, while the Cowboys weren’t.

Oh, and just to kick a Cowboy where it hurts, Texas also finished with the same league record, a worse overall record, split two games with Oklahoma State, yet got in over the ‘Boys.

The committee met for days and days and days to make that decision, which is a testament to its intellect.

I’m not being critical of Jordan and Butler for accepting the bid, though it’d be nice if he’d stop covering for the imbecilic committee.

All the Bulldogs did was accept what was offered, and the same applies to the rest of the masses of mediocrity that will be playing on the big stage over the next four days.

However, it’s ridiculous that Vermont (27-8, 15-1 in league play), Rider (15-3 in league play), Wagner (14-4 in league play), Nebraska (13-5 in the Big Ten), Middle Tennessee State (25-7, 16-2 in league play), Northern Kentucky (15-3 in league play), UC Davis (12-4 in league play), USC (24-11, 12-6 in league play), Louisiana (16-2 in league play), Saint Mary’s (28-5, 16-2 in league play), Southeast Louisiana (15-3 in league play), and Florida Gulf Coast (12-2 in league play) all have been punished after exhibiting sustained and solid to spectacular play over the course of two months.

“If you ask anybody if they would want to play Saint Mary’s, they’d probably say no,” Jordan said. “Because you know how good they are.”

Unfortunately, in the eyes of the selection committee, that isn’t a determining factor.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at Tdavis@news-sentinel.com.


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