Thursday, April 14, 2011

Basketball People Part II - NIT Seeding

Last Saturday, I wrote an article called NCAA Double Standards and Basketball People.  An anonymous person wrote a comment about that article, which is listed under the comments section of the above linked article, but here's the comment below.
"Would you agree that the NIT has money (read-attendance) issues that severely impact its seeding decisions? Shame on CM for not admitting that but some realism has to be a part of the analysis, no? Nice article overall, just a little acidic."
Now the article was meant to be acidic due to a) in light of the NCAA's inconsistent punishment of players and coaches, which was again brought to light by Joe Nocera's excelllent op-ed piece in the New York Times and b) Jay Bilas' knee-jerk response to this past Selection Sunday.

But the anonymous person brought up the point I had mentioned briefly in my article about the seeding in the NIT, which was mainly done by one of the "basketball people",  C.M. Newton, chair of the NIT selection committee.  His question was whether the NIT did the seeding based on money/attendance?

Well to answer the question, no I don't think the overall NIT seeding was truly done by money/attendance.  Because, if  that was the case, then it was somewhat badly done.  I will give you some evidence that shows it wasn't by money/attendance for a good number of seeds.

Here are the home teams for each of the first three rounds of the NIT.  They are listed with their seeds, their attendance figures and for the team's first home game the capacity of their home arena in parentheses.

Round One

#6 Charleston 4,717 (5000)
#2 Cleveland State 1,472 (13,610)
#1 Alabama 5,116 (15,308)
#3 Oklahoma State 5,342 (13,611)
#3 Missouri State 5,089 (11,000)
#3 Colorado State 3,202 (8,745)
#1 Boston College 5,035 (8,606)
#4 New Mexico 9,626 (17,200)
#2 Saint Mary's 2,443 (3,500)
#4 Wichita State 7,336 (10,573)
#2 Miami 1,509 (8,000)
#4 Northwestern 3,915 (8,117)
#1 Virginia Tech 2,892 (10,052)
#4 California 2,350 (11,877)
#1 Colorado 6,299 (11,112)
#2 Washington State 4,213 (11,566)

Round Two

Colorado 7,614
Boston College 2,615
Cleveland State 2,077
Virginia Tech 4,382
Fairfield 3,954 (9,500)
Miami 1,623
Alabama 6,821
Washington State 5,201


Colorado 9,065
Wichita State 10,506
Alabama 8,612
Washington State 5,905

Now if the seedings were based purely on attendance draws, then the NIT selection committee did a very mediocre job and in some cases, really didn't do their research.   Had St Mary's won their first round game, the NIT would have given two home games to a team that plays in a gym with a capacity of 3,500.   They gave Cleveland State two home games.  The Vikings, as my twitter friend Mike Miller notes, do not draw very well at Holstein Center.  In fact, for their first round Horizon League Tournament home game vs. UIC, Cleveland State, a team with the terrific Norris Cole drew 1,112 in a 15,000 seat arena.  No, that was not a misprint and the two subsequent NIT home games proved that.

The NIT also ended up giving two home games to a Miami, Florida team that also poorly draws as shown above.   For their last regular season ACC home game vs. Maryland, the Hurricanes only drew 4,866 in an 8,000 seat arena, which is 60 percent capacity.    For the two NIT games combined, the Hurricanes only drew 64 percent of  that Maryland game attendance figure (3132).

Now did St Mary's and Cleveland State deserve two seeds based on merit?  Absolutely.  But Wichita State probably equally deserved a #2 seed when you compare their RPI with the other teams seeded higher.  And had the NIT Selection Committee properly done their homework based on attendance, then Wichita State would have got another home game.

So how did the NIT Selection Committee do their seeding?  Well it was a combination of what power conference teams got snubbed by the NCAA - Virginia Tech, Colorado and Alabama all got #1 seeds. A lot of the seeding was done based on regions thus less travel costs.  Colorado was seeded #1 in a western region bracket that included #2 St Mary's, #3 Colorado State and #4 California.  Likewise in Virginia Tech's region, #2 was Cleveland State, #3 Dayton (though they had to play on the road due to the First Four) and #4 Wichita State.  The Alabama region had a southern feel for it with Miami as a #2 seed.  As for Boston College getting a #1 seed, well none of the other top seeded teams were really in the eastern region - #2 Washington State, #3 Oklahoma State and #4 Northwestern, so your guess is as good as mine.

But when it comes down to it, looking at the numbers above, the attendance figures were generally poor as it has been recently for the NIT.  The power conference teams in a lot of cases barely filled a third to a half of their arenas.  Saint Mary's couldn't even sellout their 3,500 seat gym for their home first round game.  Only Wichita State came close to a sellout for the NIT.   And as for the MSG games, the semifinals drew 6,082 and the championship game, 4873.   The Creighton - Oregon CBI championship games had much larger attendance figures (mind you they were on the teams' home courts).

Perhaps the NIT truly stands for the Now Irrelevant Tournament.

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