Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The media's impact on the selection committee

ON BASKETBALL

As we near the pseudo American holiday we like to call "Selection Sunday," the prognosticators are out in bunches.

I turn on ESPN, and there's an analyst saying "who's in" and "who's out." I flip over to ESPNews and — waddya know? — there's another guy yapping about two other bubble teams and breaking down the prospects of two "blind resumes."

I turn off the tube and bring up ESPN.com. And right there, on the front page, is Joe Lunardi's beaming face — how does he look so happy this time of year, considering he can't get more than four hours of sleep a night? His "bracketology" has become an obsession for many college hoops fans.

And projecting the field of 65 has become a daily exercise for sports writers and analysts from Berkeley to Tallahassee.

Which begs the question: Does the media have any effect, any at all, on the decisions made by the selection committee?

While no member would ever say yes to this question, I happen to think it must be yay — if just a mild one.

Here's the thing to consider: The athletic directors and administrators who make up the committee are, believe it or not, human. And, no, they're not secluded in a cold, dark dungeon from November until they determine the field.

In fact, they have jobs and they're out in the real world during the entire college basketball season. While I have no hard evidence, I'd be surprised if they're able to avoid reading people's opinions on teams during their process of selecting the 34 at-large squads.

And as much as a man might say he's not influenced by others' opinions, that simply is not true. By just reading, for instance, that St. Mary's is one of Lunardi's "first four out," that idea will be planted in the member's mind.

He might not agree with the assertion, but when the big day arrives he'll think of it. It's just how the brain works, folks. You can't block out an experience. It always comes back to you, especially when it's related to your current line of thinking.

Perhaps that's why Lunardi is always so accurate with his projections. Not to take anything away from the guy, but he's almost always too good with his picks.

The truth, at least I think, is that Lunardi has become such a household name that his choices for the field of 65 unconsciously find their way into the minds of the selection committee's members.

They'll never say so publicly.

But just check how Lunardi's final projections stack up against the actual field.

My money is on him picking a near-perfect 65. And he'll keep earning the big bucks.

Perhaps he should thank the selection committee afterward. Privately, of course.

3 comments:

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