Some time later this week the suspense will finally be over.
No, believe it or not, I’m not talking about LeBron James or any of the other NBA free agents. I’m talking about the new NCAA basketball tournament format.
I know this because last week I received an e-mail from the NCAA announcing that the basketball committee had, in fact, reached a decision on how to deal with the new 68 team format. The press release basically said this: the committee has reached a decision but we’re NOT telling you what that decision is until next week. It went on to add that none of the committee members would DISCUSS the decision or what went into it until next week.
Full radio silence.
Imagine if the committee had been making a decision on something that was actually important. They might have been locked in hotel rooms with no access to TV, cell phones or the internet until the announcement was made.
What’s strange about the remarkable self-importance of the committee through the years is that I’ve had the chance to know most of those who have served on it dating back thirty years. I LIKE most of them individually—there have been notable exceptions, led by Jim Delany, college athletics’ answer to Darth Vader—but when they gather as a group it gets almost scary.
Years ago, after the committee had done an especially horrific job seeding the tournament I said to Tony Kornheiser on his radio show: “They should all be lined up and shot.” (Okay, I get a bit carried away sometimes).
Noting this Tony said, “But Jack Kvancz (the AD at George Washington and then a committee member) is a good friend of yours.”
“You’re right,” I said. “Just shoot him in the leg.”
Jack, who was listening, told me later he was grateful.
Now, I’m all for giving credit where it is due. The committee did NOT decide to expand the tournament to 96 teams beginning next year as most of us believed they would this past spring. I think when they realized they could still get huge money from CBS/Turner for a new long term contract without getting pilloried—as they knew they would—for rewarding mediocrity by going to 96 teams—they backed off. How long that back off will last none of us knows but at least they held off for now.
But seriously folks, a press release announcing that you’ve made a decision on a minor issue but you aren’t announcing it for a week? Is there some curiosity among those of us who love college hoops about the new format? Sure. But there really aren’t that many options out there.
The committee will either make the last eight automatic bid qualifiers play-in against one another to reach the round of 64 as No. 16 seeds or it will make the last eight at-large teams play-in to the round of 64 as No. 12 or No. 13 seeds—which is the right thing to do. You might wonder why not compromise and have four at-large teams play four automatic bid teams. That really can’t work because you can’t say if the at-large teams win they’re No. 12 seeds but if the automatic bid teams win they’re No. 16 seeds. It just makes no sense.
The committee then has to decide where to play the four games. It can send all eight teams to Dayton, which has been an excellent host for the dreaded play-in game for nine years or send the eight teams to first and second round sites. My guess is eight automatic bid teams to Dayton, but we’ll see.
My other guess is, if I’m right, the committee will try to make the announcement the same day James makes his, in the hope that it will be completely buried in the James hype. No doubt it will be. Then again, if it had made the announcement last week, it probably would have been a five-paragraph story most places rather than a four-paragraph story. I’m surprised the committee didn’t also announce that it had decided to designate the coming weekend as The Fourth of July.
As I said, I like most of these people individually although I did almost gag out loud last April when Texas San-Antonio Athletic Director Lynn Hickey tried to explain during the annual Final Four meeting between selected committee members/NCAA staff and the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association that we writers needed to understand that everything the committee did was, “for the good of the student-athlete.”
And it don’t rain in Indiana in the summer time. I realize that a lot of people don’t have much respect for the media but did she really think we were THAT stupid. Apparently so.
Anyway, I’ll wait to see what the committee announces this week. Maybe it will announce that it has decided to make a final announcement next month.
I know most people were focused this weekend on Wimbledon (exciting finals, huh?); World Cup soccer, the announcement of the baseball All-Star teams (Omar Infante?) and the pennant races but I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Ilya Kovulchuk to make a decision.
For those of you who aren’t hockey fans, Kovulchuk is a perennial 40-goal scorer still in his 20s traded by Atlanta to New Jersey last winter. On Saturday, Newday reported that The New York Islanders might have a shot at Kovulchuk. On Monday, the Los Angeles Kings dropped out of the bidding. By late morning, I was hearing Kovulchuk might actually be headed to Long Island, giving them the kind of scorer they haven’t had for years, the star they desperately needed to take some pressure off John Tavares.
I almost got excited. Then a few hours later The New York Post reported Kovulchuk was going back to New Jersey. The Post doesn’t get hockey stories wrong. It didn’t when I was a kid, it doesn’t now. Of course Kovulchuk’s agent would only say he had “narrowed,” his choices. Maybe he’s angling for a spot on the NCAA basketball committee.
Having read that several other free agents backed away from the Islanders because The Nassau Coliseum is so outdated and there is no sign that a new building is coming along anytime soon—it is completely mired in political muck in Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead—I am completely and utterly discouraged.
I’m amazed at my age and having seen what I’ve seen through the years that I still care about a hockey team, but I do.
I also still care about the Mets and I’m encouraged by what they’ve done the first half, especially without Carlos Beltran, but I’m still skeptical. If they actually pull off a deal for Cliff Lee, then we can talk.
Maybe they’ll announce that they’re going to make an announcement about a deal. If it is next week, that’ll be fine. In the meantime, I’ll sit here on the edge of my seat waiting for the basketball committee to share its wisdom with the rest of us.
John recently appeared on The Jim Rome Show (www.jimrome.com) to discuss 'Moment of Glory.' Click here to download, or listen in the player below:
John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and in bookstores nationwide. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases