Saturday, February 18, 2012

You know what really grinds my gears?

This one's for you, @VABeachRep & @gheorghetheblog!

I’m in a bad mood. I know. Shocking, right? Cynical bastard who figured his favorite teams only went 2-14 in the NFL now watching his alma mater lock up its worst conference record ever with two games still to play. What else would I be but in a bad mood?

But my bad mood has little to do with the Flying Dutchmen’s historically rough season and more to do with what I see as I gaze over at my beloved blog, which shows a measly nine posts this month, including just three non-recaps. That’s awful. For comparison’s sake, I had 32 entries last February, 29 in February 2010 and 23 in February 2009. (And the idea for Defiantly Dutch popped into my head at the end of February 2008, a day or two after I got fired by email)

Of course, I wasn’t working as much the previous three Februarys as I am now, so that’s good. And it’s frustrating, because it leaves me precious little time to do what I love and even four years later I still grouse over how I am no longer writing sports for a living.

And it really grinds my gears that I’ve got two full-length column/story ideas that I don’t have the time to write, nor enough days to post them, so I’m forced to condense them into one entry here on Saturday morning. Which is probably a better idea anyway since blogs are supposed to be short and not the novels I like to produce. Anyway. Here’s what’s grinding my gears.

—Bracket Busters. Or is it BracketBusters? I don’t care. It’s a pain in the ass. It’s a pain in the ass every year. I whined about it three years ago this weekend, and whined about it to a lesser degree in 2010, and whined about it not at all because Charles Jenkins made us all so happy in 2011, so I won’t subject you to elongated rantings here.

Bracket Busters have become generally useless to the vast majority of participants and harmful to half the teams it is supposed to help. Indeed, Bracket Busters create mid-on-mid crime three weeks before the dopes on the Selection Committee get into a room and get busy pitting pesky mids against one another in the first two rounds (more on those guys shortly).

And for every game that pits two teams with legitimate at-large hopes, there are dozens like Hofstra-Siena that serve as fodder for 140-character cheap shots delivered by establishment writers all too eager to maintain the caste system that exists in Division I college basketball.

As I noted in my initial Bracket Busters rant, the Dutchmen have had legitimate at-large hopes just once since ESPN created this monstrosity in 2003. The BBs were just an annoyance the last three seasons, when the Dutchmen had no at-large hopes but at least could have used the game to try and bolster their resume for one of the consolation tournaments.

This year, though, the Dutchmen are a resounding 8-20, which I’m pretty sure is bad enough to even knock a team out of CBI contention. So this is a true no-win game for the Dutchmen, who need an encouraging victory in the worst way yet won’t get anything out of this even if they blow out Siena so badly that Fran McCaffrey’s wife berates an official in Iowa City.

And while a loss won’t really count either, it’ll be something a reeling team doesn’t need. Plus, the more games the depleted Dutchmen play, the more likely they are to suffer more injuries and the more likely Mo Cassara is to have to call me out of the stands. (Hey I shot some 3-pointers and even made a couple at the PFC the other night, I’m ready to go)

I’m pretty sure the UNC Wilmington plane making an emergency landing on its way to New York for the Seahawks’ game against Manhattan (THROW OUT THE RECORDS WHEN THE JASPERS HOST THE SEAHAWKS!) was a sign from above that Bracket Busters have long outlived their usefulness. But of course ESPN will never heed it and will instead beat us over the head for years to come with programming disguised as news. Me, I’d rather watch Australian Rules Football. Rouge!

—You know what else really grinds my gears? The mock selection (yeah, I’m not giving it proper name treatment) going on this week in which the Selection Committee (shouldn’t give those crooks the proper name treatment either) invites selected basketball writers to participate in the college basketball version of fantasy baseball.

In theory, it’s a really interesting exercise: Spending two days doing what the committee does over five days in March allows writers and fans to get a glimpse at the process and better understand what goes into it. In reality, selective transparency is more insulting than shedding no light at all on the process and one giant crock of crap thinly disguised as a cynical PR ploy.

The NCAA gets reams of free publicity (for an event people are already anticipating, but I digress) and shapes how it is perceived in the weeks leading up to Selection Sunday and the days after it. Almost unanimously, the writers gush about how hard a job it was and how thankless a task the committee has. (Though here is a refreshingly cynical and critical take) That in turn influences the coverage of these writers in three weeks and makes them less likely to hammer the committee for its myriad mistakes and agenda-based decision-making, because human nature makes you less likely to hammer people you know and people who were nice to you.

A mock selection also provides the NCAA dual protection. Not only can it point to the mock selection as proof that nefarious stuff doesn’t go on behind closed doors (even though the mock selection takes place two-plus weeks before the doors close), it can also rely on the time-honored tradition of smugly declaring those who criticize the committee can’t possibly do a better job of things. Or, more accurately, it can rely on well-compensated guardians of the gate such as Seth Davis to do the dirty work.

Of course, since 2006 we all know the truth and we know the type of criminal activity that goes on behind the aforementioned closed doors. I wonder if the mock selection showed athletic directors “exiting the room” when their teams came under discussion? Or showed how the committee comes up with ways to “coincidentally” pair mid-majors in the first and second rounds? Of course it didn’t. Because that doesn’t happen, snicker snicker snort snort.

On the bright side, even in a mock selection, we get to see the committee show it has no earthly idea what it is talking about. This week’s mock selection sent Old Dominion to the NCAA Tournament as the CAA champion. Now, it’s possible the two-time defending champion Monarchs will emerge again as the tournament champion in 16 days despite being seeded fourth, fifth or sixth in Richmond.

But at the moment, the Monarchs are BY FAR the weakest of the CAA’s current top four. Old Dominion is 12-0 against the teams behind it in the standings and 0-4 against VCU and George Mason with a game still remaining against Drexel. And ODU’s RPI is in the high 120s, a good 40 or more spots lower than the CAA’s top three. Anyone who has paid attention to the CAA this year recognizes that while the Monarchs are solid, this is a transition year for Blaine Taylor’s group.

Again: The Monarchs might win it all, but nothing on their resume this year suggests they will be the team to earn the CAA’s automatic bid. So why in the hell would a mock selection—one that is supposed to give a reasonable approximation of the real thing—dubbing them the champions instead of Drexel, George Mason or VCU? Because there’s never been anything so aptly dubbed as the mock selection, that’s why.

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