The closer we inch toward March, the longer Wichita State’s perfect record lingers, the more the debate will rage.
Would an undefeated Shockers team deserve a No. 1 seed despite competing in a Missouri Valley Conference that doesn’t stack up to the competition?
If it all plays out, the ultimate defense of whatever the decision is will fall to Ron Wellman, chair of the selection committee.
“We pay no attention to what the team’s labels publicly might be, whether it be mid-major, major, beyond that or less than that,” Wellman said.
What the committee does look at hard, of course, are the numbers -- RPI, strength of schedule and nonconference strength of schedule. With that, the Shockers are still a bit of a conundrum.
Their RPI is 7, but their overall SOS is 99 and nonconference rating is 48. They’ve played just three teams with an RPI of 50 or greater and 19 ranked 150 or worse.
But they’ve won every game they’ve played, and if that’s the goal, should they be penalized just because their opponents weren’t as good?
At least partially, Wellman says no.
“We look at the attempt of what they have tried to do, as well,” he said. “Oftentimes, schools develop a schedule thinking that it is a very strong schedule only to have their opponents fall on their face and the schedule isn’t nearly as strong as they thought it would be. Those are some of the factors that we look at beyond the RPI.”
Count DePaul, BYU, Tennessee, and Alabama among those attempts for Wichita State.
The other factor? The zero that would, in this scenario, land in the Shockers’ loss column -- “who you play, where you play and the result of the game.”
Ultimately the decision is far more subjective than it seems. Hard numbers help but conversations among committee members and the eyeball test still carry weight.
This will not be a computer’s decision but this particular committee’s judgment, and no matter what side Wellman and his committee members come down on, they’ll have detractors.
The last time the committee was in this position, back in 2004, it awarded Saint Joseph’s, which lost in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, a top seed.
Billy Packer, then the CBS analyst, immediately took to the airwaves to express his disappointment with the decision.
Should Wichita State pull of the impossible, someone will have something to say no matter what the committee does.