Saint Mary’s basketball coach Randy Bennett was a upset Sunday upon learning that his team was apparently not one of the 68 best in nation. So upset, in fact, that he uttered one of the more nonsensical things heard that day (at least until Celebrity Apprentice hit the air): “Go to BCS. Go to something where there’s a standardized number how you figure out who’s in, who’s not.” The suggestion being that at least with the BCS, you know where you stand, there’s no mysterious group of people deciding your fate and…

…Wait, what?

All Bennett has proven with this comment is that he doesn’t understand how the BCS works. The system is at least two-thirds opinion–opinions of sportswriters or whoever votes in the Harris Poll, opinions of coaches who can’t even reasonably watch enough games to know what they’re talking about and then won’t even share their final votes with us. And it’s only two-thirds opinion if you buy that computer algorithms designed by humans (and most of which are not available for public dissection) are somehow free of bias or unable to be manipulated. Mysterious enough for you?

Bennett wants to rid tournament selection of human error, a noble goal, but also an impossible one. How exactly does one determine when “human error” has been made, especially in this case? What demonstrable method is available to illustrate the obvious (to Bennett anyway) truth that Saint Mary’s belongs in the tournament? There is none. Attempting to do so only opens a series of progressively absurd cans of worms:

What makes a schedule “strong”?
What makes an opponent “quality”?
What makes a team “deserving”?

Coach Bennett would argue that as long as every team is playing by the same rules, it doesn’t matter. But that’s impossible too. A Big East schedule is, by any reasonable measure, always going to be “tougher” than an Ivy League schedule. Right out of the gate, we’ve got favoritism.

That’s why the March Madness system is the best solution. All conference champions are included. That’s the most important step. Win your conference and you get a shot at the title. The power is entirely in each individual team’s hands and it’s 100% fair. If you can’t do that, you have no right to complain. You failed to secure your berth, and are now at the mercy of the at-large process, which in this case is a selection committee. If you want to make a case that the makeup of the committee is flawed, I would certainly listen and probably agree with you.

I would love to hear Bennett’s idea of a system for choosing at-large spots that would make everyone happy. But the truth is, no one wants to be left out, and it doesn’t really matter how you get left out or how many got in ahead of you. Expand the tournament to 96, 128, or 256 (Kinko’s has a deal on bracket binding) and you’ll still have someone fuming that their 20-loss team didn’t make it.


  1. I’ll give him this: it’s an original way for someone to gripe about missing the tournament.

  2. Cloud of Dust says

    Kind of ironic that small-conference football coaches are begging for a playoff while small-conference basketball coaches are begging for the BCS…

  3. Cod; yeah you’re right; I guess whatever suits your needs.

  4. Cloud of Dust says

    It should be noted that Saint Mary’s was bounced immediately from the NIT by Kent State. Even karma hates the BCS.

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