Was Monmouth Mugged by Big Brand Bias?

Published on 15-Mar-2016 by Alan Adamsson
Basketball - NCAA Mens / NCAA Basketball Daily Update

Not a good scenario.

This quote's origins are murky, but its substance is beyond doubt:

There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Combine that truth with a legendary retort by Sir Winston Churchill, who in at least one instance during his younger days had clearly imbibed to the max at a high society soirée:

Matron: "Mr Churchill, you are drunk!"
Sir Winston: "And you, Madam, are ugly. But in the morning, I shall be sober!"

Therein rest the main reasons why the Monmouth Hawks are in the NIT while Syracuse and Michigan are in the Big Dance.

And Tulsa? Why shouldn't they be in the brackets?

If a gaggle of manipulating Oklahoma businessmen -- whose number decreased by one lately -- can convince the NBA to rip a team out of a major market, then all bets are off everywhere else.

Bumping the likes of Monmouth, St Bonaventure, and Saint Mary's from the bracket in favor of big brands was never a conspiracy of bias.

Rather, it's due to the complacency of perspective.

In times of war, causes need figureheads. It's another form of branding. Churchill had his props -- the distinctive hats, the stogie, and the V-for-victory sign -- and his throngs came to see him as more credible than anyone else.

What was the reality? Absent war, he didn't have enough substance of policy to keep from being voted out of the prime minister's office.

If only statistical manipulation had been perfected in 1945.

That didn't really happen until later, when NBC was forced to dispose of its experimental Blue Network, which became ABC. In order to have a viable sales pitch to sponsors, the new network had to show it was good at something, so it developed demographics, creating subsets of statistics that offered more chances of supporting a winning position.

Maybe Monmouth did have an RPI of 52, which fell to that point because Georgetown and UCLA sucked. Maybe they did upset Notre Dame and USC. Maybe they were road warriors, playing 23 games away from home.

In short, maybe they did do all the stuff that was touted to be the stuff a mid-major should do to make the brackets.

But the Hawks also lost to Canisius, Army, and Manhattan, all of whom had RPI's outside the Top 200.

And that's the stat -- over all others -- on which the Selection Committee decided to fixate.

After that, all the Wolverines and Orange had to do was wait -- until the next morning, figuratively speaking -- for the Committee to come to the obvious conclusion that Michigan and the 'Cuse were who they were.

So smart people with lotsa time on their hands can flash stats that make more sense than anything else the Committee did, but there are always gonna be other stats.

Thus, toss in the college hoops version of Churchillian props -- famous coaches, constant national TV appearances, tradition, etc -- and the rationalization to prefer a big brand school is the natural result.

After all, what does Monmouth have in the national consciousness except presidential polling and their bench mob?

On the bright side, Monmouth's a top seed in the NIT.

Odds are they'll get to play more games than they would've in the Big Dance. They'll also have a realistic shot at a championship, to be won at Madison Square Garden.

That's actually not a bad deal.

It's just a matter of perspective.

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