Monday, March 13, 2006

Statler and Waldorf on the NCAA Selection Show

I watched one of the most humorous of Muppet episodes last night. The one about the two crumudgeonly fellows sitting around being all sour and talking about how awful things are and all the wrongs in the world. You know... Inequities in society and stuff like that (or maybe just how bad Fozzie's last joke was). Last night they were cranking about the evil MVC. That young upstart that's trying to butt into established society. Crashing parties and being generally disrespectful of their proper place and their rightful betters. And also about the evil leadership that was allowing, no... enabling, it to happen. What? That wasn't some kinda silly comedy act? Those guys were actually "objective journalists" and legitimately commenting on the NCAA selections? They actually belittled the head of the selection committee and cut him off? Oh, come on... no one can be that sour-pussed because of a 9th place Big East squad or a 7th place team from the Big Can't Count didn't get into the NCAA tournament, can they?!?

Apparently so. From the beginning, every cut-away to Billy Packer and Jim Nantz looked like Statler and Waldorf. Grumpy and not enthused about the show they were witnessing.

(Note: vcthree at Cultured State has a full transcript of the on-air portion of this rant, while other quotes were pulled from press conferences afterwards)

Nantz:

Something has gone haywire with this computer system . . . I mean, the ACC and the Big 12 generated the same number of bids (four) as the Missouri Valley? I don't buy it.


Packer:

Do you think for one second that a Louisville or a Notre Dame, two teams that obviously got no consideration whatsoever, wouldn't be favored against the likes of the teams from the Missouri Valley or the Colonial Athletic (Association)?


Nantz:

"It's gone way too far now. The fact that Hofstra merited even any discussion on our air or ESPN's air all weekend long completely baffles me."


Packer:

I'm really not an expert on the Missouri Valley, but . . . it doesn't make any sense to me. You put Florida State and Maryland into their league, I'd like to know where they'd end up. Do you see any of those four teams taking Duke to overtime, at Duke and beating them on their home court?


Nantz:

The media has perpetrated the myth all season long about how great certain conferences are and how weak other conferences are.


Packer:

One of the things you can not overlook is the strength of what leagues do year in and year out . . . The Colonial and Missouri Valley end up with six representatives in the tourney and the ACC and the Big 12 end up with eight - you've got to be kidding.


And on, and on, and on... I mean, these guys wouldn't shut up.

Packer made a point to say that 58 of the 80 teams that played their way into the Sweet 16 in the past five tournaments were from the BCS conferences. Well, anyone with an ounce of sense would also note that the majority of the participants are from BCS conferences, and the vast majority of the BCS teams start with a high seed, while the vast majority of the mid-major teams start with a low seed. I would love to see the average seed that each of these groups faced in the first round. Maybe I'll do the research and update this post, but my guess is that the average BCS school faces an 11 to 14 seed at highest in the first round, while the average mid-major faces a 3 to 6 at lowest. Do you think that could maybe, possibly have something to do with the disparity of the advancement? Hmm?!?

Also, I would love to see a comparison of records for teams of similar seedings. That would pit top level mid-majors with mid-level BCS teams, which is a much fairer comparison. Again, I haven't done this research and will add it if I have time. Regardless, to compare Duke's success against 15 and 16 seeds to Kent's success against 5 seeds is ludicrous and borderline dishonest.

Craig Littlepage, the head of the selection committee and representative of the ACC's University of Virginia, after receiving a tongue-lashing from the dynamic duo over the fact that Billy's conference of choice (the ACC) was demeaned by having the same amount of bids as the lowly MVC, tried to explain that conference affiliation was not considered. After whines of schedule strength of the mid-majors, Littleton pointed out that scheduling is basically a two-way street... patsy schedules by the BCS teams of course leads to less strength in the middies schedules. Since Littlepage's arguments made too much logical sense, he was summarily cut off and dispensed with, not even receiving the customary 'atta-boy' for all of the work behind seeding the tournament.

Of course, I'm sure Billy and Jimmy would prefer that all mid-majors play road games exclusively at the BCS schools and never get a shot at them at their home court... or, better yet, they probably would prefer that they play only amongst their own type. Maybe they can lobby for a 1-AA designation like football?!?

Good for Doug Elgin, the head of the MVC, for calling out these jokers:

I'm disappointed in both Jim Nantz and Billy Packer and their behavior. Their comments were inappropriate and wrong. They need to do some research before they make statements like that.

You can take a year in which the Big Ten went 1-6 in the tournament and that doesn't impact the Big Ten's ability to place teams in the field next year. You can win a lot of arguments by taking a selective cut of information and that's what these guys did.


In his statement, Elgin pointed out that the MVC had reached the NCAA Sweet 16 twice in the last seven seasons and had beaten BCS teams such as Florida, Louisville, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to do it. Why wasn't this mentioned by Jim and Bill? Elgin has a supposition:

Billy didn't have that information at his disposal


Oh, he didn't say that, did he? He-he...

I'm a MAC guy, so I am biased. I have seen my Cardinals walk into a Sweet 16 game and give the future national champions their only test for the entire tournament. I have seen Kent and Miami and other MAC schools achieve a great deal with the one bid the conference seems destined to always receive. So, naturally, I am loving this attention (but wishing it was the MAC and not the MVC). I admit my preferences and offer no illusion of balance in my reporting. But, then again, Jimmy is perfectly balanced, or so he says:

I'm all for the little guy


Heh...

My favorite part of the show? Seeing Packer give away the Minneapolis 8-9 seeds before they were announced while talking about the Washington seedings. Classic... broadcasting at it's finest...

Update (3/13/06 9:45pm):
Craig Littlepage strikes back. Good for him. I'm sure ABC/Disney/ESPN will be glad to cover the tournament if CBS isn't interested anymore...

Update (3/14/06 8:52am):
I'm reading that Billy has defended and expanded his comments on Imus. I'll see if I can snag a transcript. I also read that Billy said Louisville would cakewalk Hofstra's schedule. Hmm... let's see... It appears that Hofstra also cakewalked their schedule, losing only to ND at Joyce in their OOC. Let's pop on over to Louisville for a second... Wow... two road games and one neutral. Outside of travelling to their traditional rival UK, there ain't much difference (except for the freqency of playing at their homecourt).

Billy: "I'm really not an expert on the Missouri Valley, but... ." Really? Well, you certainly seem to have a strong opinion on why they shouldn't qualify for the tournament! If you are not an expert, and likely have not seen them (or CAA, or MAC, etc...) play, how can you know that they don't deserve to be in?!?

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