Monday, March 12, 2007

NCAA and NIT bids

Over the past two weeks, there has been plenty of discussion regarding the "new" and "old" NITs.

With a new format (automatic bids, 32 teams, minimal television influence), this was up for debate until Sunday night.

C.M. Newton, the Hall of Famer who hired Tubby Smith at Kentucky, the man who drove Alabama basketball through the SEC, echoed the thoughts of NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Gary Walters from a few hours earlier.

(Side note: Did anyone catch Walters' ear-to-ear grin when ESPN anchor Reece Davis asked about comparing high- and mid-majors? Walters wanted that question. He knew it was coming and he jumped all over it. Walters is a smart man. He is used to criticism. It also seems as though he doesn't care about criticism. I like his style. I digress.)

Anyway, Newton, the NIT committee chair, summed up Walters' thoughts in his Southern homespun manner, just as eloquent and thorough, but with not as many 10-cent words. Walters compared the selection process to Jeffersonian Democracy ideals. Newton just said the committee put on their coaching hats.

And in the end, you still have two brackets. Funny how those things work out.

With the NCAA running the NIT, changes did happen. When I spoke with Newton two weeks ago, he said there are so many formulas, so many scenarios that weigh on the committee's selections, but the largest factor is wins.

"Win games and you're in. It's as simple as that," Newton said. "I don't care who you are. Win and you're in. Some principles never change and every coach knows that."

North Carolina State, which played well in the ACC Tournament, qualified for the NIT with the fewest wins (18). When that was announced, University of Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, and the rest of the country, knew the Huskies' season was over.

They had 17 wins, lost their last four (against quality opponents) but 14 of their last 20.

Wins do change prospects.

In terms of bracketology, check out today's New York Times' "Keeping Score" story.

In terms of breaking down numbers, this space is also a must-read.

Ken Pomeroy will show scientific numerical evidence, Keeping Score puts it in perspective.


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