It's almost too bad that the NCAA Tournament begins on Thursday (well, Tuesday, but Monmouth-Hampton doesn't really get blood pumping the way you'd like), because Sunday's hysterical reactions are worth lingering over awhile. I mean, people are still not done with Barry Bonds a week after the fact, so it seems wrong that Air Force only gets a few hours' agita before we move on to other things.
This is apparently going to be cast as the last Luddite NCAA Tournament -- the one in which the selection committee decided to abandon such antiquated tools as the RPI (Ratings Performance Index) for something more visceral and personal -- namely, whim.
The examples were plentiful -- Tennessee as a two seed, California as a seven, Air Force as anything, and the Missouri Valley Conference in the role as the new ACC.
All this outraged math freaks, logic freaks and power conference freaks, all of whom shrieked to high heaven as though their todgers had been caught in a wine press. The royalty was not rewarded for being royal, the hoi polloi got good Ratings Polloi Index, and the committee didn't use the old tools for the new tournament, and blah blah blah.
Best of all, the ACC got hosed by the selection committee? Now there's a first.
But we can live with all that, given that the committee did not feel bound by precedent or numbers to make the cases for them. They struck out on their own, charting new and wacky worlds, and it did not sit well with the chattering classes on television. And who can't see the pure ennobling sport in watching the pundits eat their own livers on live TV?
Yet, the games start up too early on Thursday for us to fully enjoy the tortured screams of the experts. The business of the athletes supersedes the business of the suits, a dramatic change from the typical Olympic model of suits first, athletes when we get around to it.
And that is why the system is flawed. Not that there aren't enough pure basketball people on the committee to make those non-mathematical decisions, or that the imbalances between the power conferences and all the others is too wide, or isn't wide enough, but that there isn't enough time to work up a major bitch-fest before the time comes to start filling out your office brackets.
You hate the Missouri Valley getting four, eight or 12 teams? Fine. Take Seton Hall, West Virginia, Georgetown and Kansas. You're hot about Air Force nudging Hofstra and Cincinnati aside? Push it in with both hands on Illinois. Cal seeded too high? Take North Carolina State. Gonzaga seeded too low? Swell, get them past Xavier, Indiana and UCLA (or Xavier, San Diego State and Marquette). Tennessee too high? Dream that Winthrop dream.
See, you get to express your dissatisfaction, and back it up with money. You get to dismiss the experts, pretend you can profit from their stupidities while having the added bonus of fooling the boss into thinking you're still working those quarterly reports. Now that's the kind of dissent Americans can work with.
The bad part, though, is the time you spend wreaking your revenge on your bracket instead of calling in radio chat shows, or yelling at the guy on the next stool, or screaming about secret plots and back-channel deals and McCarthyism. And nothing says entertainment like fever-enriched lunacy.
Thus, if there is a change to be made in the selection process, it might be in allowing enough time for post-selection fulminating. Maybe starting the tournament on Saturday rather than Thursday would help, to give us two extra days to tear a new one into Craig Littlepage (or whoever draws the green weenie and has to run the committee) or draw up conspiracy theories that not only prove that the committee took care of North Carolina but screwed North Carolina at the same time.
Hey, it works for Barry Bonds.
But no, the games comes first, so all you have time to do is pretend to have an informed opinion on George Washington-UNC Wilmington. The time you lose bitching about the committee is time you gain blustering, and nobody can call you on GW-Wilmington because your friends are busy trying to gaslight you on Oklahoma-Wisconsin Milwaukee.
But maybe you can raise a stinklet about the NIT, if that floats your cerebral cortex. I mean, how the hell does Fairleigh Dickinson get in and St. Mary's not? Is somebody high?