Hoop Thoughts

College Basketball commentary with Seth Davis

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  • 12:16 PM ET  11.12

Zen question of the day: When does one win count more than another win?

Answer: When one win comes in mid-November and the other comes in late February.

This might not be technically true in terms of a team's win-loss record, but when it comes to selecting and seeding teams for the NCAA tournament, it is a logical answer. Yet, for some reason the men's basketball committee has gone counterintuitive on us and decreed that all wins are created equal.

As you may recall, for many years the committee included a team's record over its last 10 games as part of its criteria for the NCAA tournament. This nugget probably got more attention from the public than it deserved, because it was rarely the determining factor. But it made sense: A team playing well entering the tournament should get a very slight edge over a team that was playing poorly.

Over the last few years, however, the committee has been moving away from this idea. First, it extended the category to include a team's last 12 games. Last year, the committee completely eliminated the record in the last 12 games altogether, though of course the committee members were free to emphasize or de-emphasize the later portions of a team's schedule. On a media conference call Tuesday afternoon, the current chair of the committee, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, hailed that move as a resounding success. "This decision was made so as to put more emphasis on a team's total body of work," Guerrero said. "To quote from Mike Slive, last year's chair, he really emphasized the whole issue of the body of work. That's really important to us. Every game counts every night. We have to count what happens now as much as what happens in a lot of respects later in the year."

Again, this strikes me as counterintuitive, if not illogical. College basketball teams go through substantial changes over the course of a season, both progressive and regressive. One team may be full of juniors and seniors and thus starts well in November before fading down the stretch, while another could have young players who aren't quite battle-tested at the beginning of the year, yet by the first week of March they have jelled into a formidable unit. The mission of the committee is to find the best 34 teams to award at-large bids on the day the tournament begins. Now, if team A went 7-5 in its last 12 games and team B went 5-7, that is basically a distinction without a difference. But what if team A went 4-8 while team B went 10-2? Doesn't that tell us something?

Personnel changes are often a factor. Maybe a key player suffered a season-ending injury in February and his team took a dive, or someone became eligible for the second semester that reversed a team's fortunes for the better. The committee definitely takes those factors into effect, as it should. I also like that the committee has emphasized the degree of difficulty in a nonconference schedule is important. But to say, as Guerrero did, that what happens now counts just as much as what happens in late February and early March? That's just silly.

I'm not saying teams' records over the last 12 games should mean everything. But they should mean something. Or am I making too much sense?

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