NCAA tourney selection shoddy, but it’s no BCS

I almost fell out of my Mad Hatter’s chair when I heard Randy Bennett say that he wished the selection committee used more of a BCS-like formula in choosing the field for the NCAA Tournament. Sure, the St. Mary’s men’s basketball coach is upset his Gaels (25-8) were overlooked. But, it’s just as obvious that Bennett hasn’t closely followed the Bowl Championship Series fiascoes where controversy regularly trumps logic and undefeated football teams often fail to get to play for a national championship.

As any good Mathlete knows, the BCS rankings are comprised of three components of equal value: Coaches poll, Harris interactive poll and the average of the six computer rankings which drop the highest and lowest rating of each team and divides the total by 100 to arrive at the BCS quotient. Pure science. Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, choosing the 37 at-large berths for March Madness has its own quirky foibles. Starting with the fact that only two of the 10-person selection committee ever even played college basketball: Stan Morrison, a center on the 1959 Cal national championship team and Lynn Hickey, a member of the 1973 U.S. women’s national team. The others are school athletic directors and conference commissioners who often seem more concerned with filling arena seats than their best brackets.

Like the BCS, the basketball selection committee puts too much emphasis on funky formulas and not enough on good old-fashioned common sense. Case in point, the all-important Rating Percentage Index or RPI — which is not to be confused with the VDBI, (The Vitale Bald-Domed Index) — is calculated by taking a team’s win-loss record (25 percent) and your opponent’s winning percentage (50 percent), plus the winning percentage of your opponents’ opponents (25 percent). RPI rule No. 1: First you beat ’em, then you hope the vanquished beat the heck out of everybody else and makes you look better. The Gaels’ RPI was 46th best in the country, which usually would be good enough to get that coveted ticket to the Big Dance.

However, the Gaels’ strength of schedule was the 100th most difficult in the country. Throw in four losses in their past seven games, including a dreadful defeat at lowly San Diego (6-24) and it’s little wonder why St. Mary’s didn’t get in.

Hey, three schools with higher RPI ratings than the Gaels were also left out: Harvard (21-6), Cleveland State (24-8) and Missouri State (25-8).

But all is not lost in the ever-expanding world of college hoops. A record 140 of the 345 Division I schools are playing in tournaments this week. The once venerable National Invitational Tournament, the country’s oldest, founded in 1938, features 32 teams, including St. Mary’s and Cal.

The College Basketball Invitational Tournament, now in its fourth year, takes 16 teams, including San Jose State. USF is playing in the Tournament, now expanded to 24 teams in its third year. The coolest part of the CIT, San Diego Chargers teammates Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, both former college basketball stars, are on the selection committee. Imagine that. Guys who actually played the game in this millennium getting a chance to pick the teams for a tournament. What will they think of next?

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at

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