Westward hosed! Mizzou gets screwed out of No. 1 berth, joins SLU in West region of NCAA tourney

Westward hosed! Mizzou gets screwed out of No. 1 berth, joins SLU in West region of NCAA tourney
Jeff Moffett/Icon SMI AAH
The Tigers celebrate their Big 12 victory.

The conference tournaments are over, the selection committee has done its job — perhaps well, perhaps poorly, depending on what you value in your selection committees — and the brackets have all been set. March Madness is ready to begin.

Of course, it's tough to say a whole lot about the tournament that hasn't either already been said or will be said over the next few days. Actually, scratch that: already been said or will be hoarsely screamed over the next few days by Dick Vitale, whose voice continues to slowly collapse in on itself like a white dwarf star. I know the guy is a legend and all, but unless he gets an endorsement deal with Ricola in the very near future, I just don't think I can listen to him much longer.

First things first: The Missouri Tigers got dissed. Or, actually, maybe not dissed, but they definitely are feeling the pain so many other teams have felt over the years. The pain of Selection Committee Blues, a common affliction this time of year for teams whose records are ignored and whose RPI is either lionized or demonized, depending entirely on which Big East or ACC school is going to most profit from it.

Selection Committee Blues
The Tigers were in the running for a No. 1 seed. They ended up with a No. 2. A big steaming pile of No. 2 seed. Michigan State received the final No. 1 in the tournament, despite losing three more games than the Tigers, being ranked lower and playing in a conference that wasn't any stronger, if even as strong as the Big 12 was this season.

Missouri Tigers guard Kim English yells with excitement near the end of the finals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship.
Jeff Moffett/Icon SMI AAH
Missouri Tigers guard Kim English yells with excitement near the end of the finals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship.

There were reasons given, of course. The Spartans won their conference tournament. Their RPI was better. Their non-conference schedule was better. The bottom line is this: Tom Izzo's genitals taste like sweet strawberry rhubarb pie, and everyone on the selection committee loves sweet strawberry rhubarb pie. They love it so much, in fact, they're just itching every single year to drop down on their knees and find some way to bump an Izzo team up high enough that they might receive a little taste.

Vulgar flavor metaphors aside, the fact is the selection committee doesn't go by rankings; they go by their own byzantine formulas and calculations, chief among them is RPI. In case you don't know what that is, it's a formula that's supposed to weigh strength of schedule and a host of other factors but was actually cooked up by a coven of witches at the height of the Salem witch trials in hopes of getting Jim Calhoun and his UConn Huskies a better seed than they deserve. If just the top 68 teams in the nation based on RPI were rounded up and plugged into the tournament brackets, I wouldn't have a complaint. Personally, I think the RPI as calculated has some huge flaws in it as well, but even a consistently flawed system is better than one which spits out random results year after year based largely on the whims of a roomful of what I can only imagine are shadowy, cloaked figures hunched around a conference table constructed of human bone.

Every year there are schools left out despite having much better RPI rankings than other schools that get in, and there is always some sort of bullshit justification spat out by the selection committee as to why that is. Missouri State was one of the most glaring examples a few years ago, when the Bears were left out of the tournament entirely despite an RPI ranking of 21, right between Kansas (20) and Boston College (22). Both the Jayhawks and BC pulled No. 4 seeds, while Missouri State stayed home.

Conference tournaments only matter when the committee wants them to. Michigan State gets extra credit for winning its conference tourney, but Missouri gets none for winning the Big 12 tournament? Meanwhile, North Carolina and Kentucky don't get penalized the slightest bit for losing theirs? You'll hear the argument that regular-season conference titles matter when a No. 6 seed beats Duke to win the ACC tourney, but when Connecticut goes on a run in the Big East tournament they're showing who they really are and get bumped up a couple seeding spots because of it. Again, we're talking about one of the great moving targets in modern society.

In other words, the selection process for the NCAA tournament is a huge crock of shit, and only slightly less pathetically corrupt that the BCS system in college football. But I digress.

The Tigers are a better team than Michigan State. But no one cares. Period. The Missouri Tigers ended the NCAA basketball season ranked No. 3 in the nation, but are ranked as the No. 8 overall team in the tournament. I'm just citing the facts.

I will concede one point: The Tigers do play a ridiculously soft non-conference schedule. The game against Illinois in St. Louis each year is a fantastic event, but that's often the only halfway decent team the Tigers play until they get into the Big 12 conference season. If you want to be a top team, you have to play better teams out of conference than the Tigers do. Playing St. Mary's School for the Blind and Hopelessly Uncoordinated three times a year in non-conference is a holdover from the Mike Anderson years; hopefully Frank Haith will take the program in a non-cupcake direction. It needs to happen.

Billikens: One and Done
On the other hand, the Billikens of SLU pulled a much better seed than I expected to see, being slotted No. 9 in the West region. Both Mizzou and SLU are headed out West, in fact, and probably drew the softest region in the tournament. The committee didn't really do Rick Majerus and his Billikens any favors, though, as they drew a nasty, nasty first-round game against University of Memphis. Still, a No. 9 seed carries with it a certain amount of cache anyway, and seeing SLU ranked that high would do the late Charlie Spoonhour's heart good.

Next Page »