"Hofstra-gate?" Revisited

Josh Wright —  14 March 2006

Matt Bodie, of Hofstra and Prawfsblawg, is “a little outraged” at the NCAA tournament selection committee’s failure to invite Hofstra to the big dance.  But what really gets Matt is that:

George Mason, a team that Hofstra beat twice, is going instead.  George Mason had a slightly tougher out of conference schedule, but it has been tough to rationalize the two head-to-head losses.

Unable to find a reasonable explanation for the committee’s decision in favor of Mason over Hofstra, Matt (and many sportswriters) have turned to conspiracy theories.  Here are the highlights of the controversy:

1.  While Mason and Hofstra have similar records and RPIs, Hofstra beat Mason head to head twice this season.

2.  Tony Skinn, one of Mason’s best players, is suspended for the first round game.

3.  GMU’s Athletic Director is on the selection committee, though out of the room for discussions of Mason.  If that isn’t enough, apparently, the head of the committee (Craig Littlepage) is a good friend of GMU’s Coach Larranaga.

While I appreciate Matt’s loyalty to his home institution, the same loyalty requires me to defend GMU’s basketball squad from these attacks by offering two points in defense of selecting my home institution:

1.  Hofstra does not have a signature non-conference win.  Mason beat Wichita State on the road (RPI 27, and a #7 seed in the tournament), and UNC-Wilmington (whom Hofstra also beat).

2.  Mason plays a tougher schedule (four of their seven losses came against top 50 teams, e.g., Wake Forest and Mississippi State).

If I were a Hofstra fan, I too would be irked that a team we beat twice in the last 10 days of the season was selected in lieu of my squad.  But that does not mean the committee made the wrong decision (though I realize reasonable minds may disagree here).  Let us not forget that the unit of analysis is supposed to be the team’s “body of work” over the entire season.  In my humble opinion, Mason’s body of work is superior to Hofstra’s even with the two head to head losses.  As much fun as it is to point at larger, more mysterious forces, isn’t this the most plausible reason that Mason gets at least one more game this year while Hofstra heads to the NIT? 

P.S. My Final Four picks are: Texas, UCLA (Go Bruins!), UCONN, and Boston College.

4 responses to "Hofstra-gate?" Revisited

  1. 

    “It would be naive to think that Mason’s AD on the Selection Committee and Littlepage’s past ties with Mason’s coach were not the deciding factor.”

    Well, I guess you can color me naive. Perhaps it is more appropriate to congratulate the committee on properly placing significant weight on GMU’s victory on the road over Wichita State, who also performed very well in the tournament. This data, of course, was available at the time of selection.

  2. 

    While George Mason has done great in the tournament, this was not data considered by the selection committe, since they did not have a crystal ball. The committee’s selection of George Mason would have been fine with me had they also taken Hofstra. But if only one would be chosen, the obvious choice was Hofstra. Hofstra beat them twice in the last 10 days of the season with Skinn playing. Now without Skinn for the first game, Mason is a stronger choice. The teams rpis and overall records where so similar (Mason slightly better rpi, Hofstra slightly better won-loss record) that under any objective criteria Hofstra won the right to the bid ahead of Mason on the court in head to head competition. It would be naive to think that Mason’s AD on the Selection Committee and Littlepage’s past ties with Mason’s coach were not the deciding factor. That being said, I could easily have seen three teams earning a berth this year. But let’s keep politics out of sports. Why does the Selection Committee have to be comprised of members with such an obvious vested interest?

  3. 

    Look at those Patriots, indeed!

  4. 

    Look at those Patriots making the committee look smart. I’m not sure they’ll do so well against UNC tomorrow though. Best of luck to them.