OU’s tournament snub: Porter Moser wants answers that already are apparent

OU’s tournament snub: Porter Moser wants answers that already are apparent

Reasons for OU's NCAA Tournament omission include the five bid-stealers who won their conference tournaments, taking the place of the Sooners and other teams that otherwise would have been safely in the fold.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Mar 20, 2024, 11:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Mar 20, 2024, 11:00am CDT

(Want Berry Tramel’s stories in your inbox? Subscribe here)

NORMAN — Porter Moser’s basketball players checked the bracketologists every day. Literally, Moser said. Every day since Dec. 1.

When December arrived, OU was 7-0 and already in The Associated Press poll. So literally every day since then, the Sooners were included in the projected NCAA Tournament.

“Our young guys woke up, right or wrong, we look at a bracket and Oklahoma was in a bracket,” Moser said Tuesday during an emotional press conference. “Now, if we lost a game, we might slide a seed, and as a coach I know better to look at those things because I know there’s a lot left.

“But for young people, every single day from December they’re looking at a bracket and they’re in it. The first time since December 1 they looked up that they were not included was on the bracket reveal.”

That was Sunday, and the NCAA Tournament reveal stung like a bullet ant. The Sooners were not included. They were named as the first team out.

Which led to Moser on Tuesday demanding answers to an unanswerable question. Why were the Sooners left out?

Moser harped on all the bracketologists who had the Sooners in the field Sunday morning.

“I feel such hurt for the young guys who put so much into it, that they don’t have answers why they were left out, when every single day, the response I’m getting from people, in the media, other coaches, ‘we had you in,’” Moser said.

“I can’t get an answer from anybody to tell me why. And I think that’s where the flaw comes in, of the process. And I’m not going to sit here and call out anything and I’m not going to go down a rabbit hole. I’m just going to say, the system is flawed, because you hear different reasons of why a team got in.”

Moser is talking nonsense, of course. You can’t blame him. College basketball coaches live in a vacuum; their world view is not wide.

The sport was not outraged Sunday night when the 20-12 Sooners, who tied for ninth in the 14-team Big 12, were omitted from March Madness.

OU failed to make the NCAAs for obvious reasons. Because five bid-stealers won their conference tournaments, taking the place of teams like OU that otherwise would have been safely in the fold. OU failed to make the NCAAs because three pivotal Sooners were injured at season’s end, and their availability in the tournament was in question. OU failed to make the NCAAs because the 12-member selection committee voted in Virginia ahead of the Sooners.

Which metric put the Cavaliers ahead of OU? We don’t know. What was the vote? We don’t know. Would knowing help? Every committee member sees things differently.

Some prioritize strength of schedule, others the NET (NCAA evaluation tool). Some look at quality wins, others at dubious defeats. Then they vote, and the committee chairman must explain why Virginia instead of OU, when he might have voted for the Sooners.

Demanding answers doesn’t change anything.

Look at it this way. Take away those five bid-stealers in conference tournaments — Oregon the Pac-12, New Mexico the Mountain West, North Carolina State the Atlantic Coast Conference, Duquesne (or any other Atlantic-10 team after Virginia Commonwealth beat Dayton) and Alabama-Birmingham (or any other American Conference team after Temple beat Florida Atlantic) — and check out where the Sooners would have been seeded.

OU would have been an 11-seed but not even relegated to the First Four in Dayton. Take away the bid-stealers, and the First Four would have been Seton Hall, Indiana State, Pittsburgh and Villanova.

And you wouldn’t have heard a peep from Moser or the Sooners. They would have been thrilled to be an 11-seed, probably playing South Carolina in Pittsburgh. OU would take its chances with the Gamecocks, thinking it didn’t match up too poorly with Creighton in a potential second-round game, and say nary a discouraging word about the committee.

No demand of what metric put Virginia ahead of OU. No impassioned plea for transparency. No questions about what the committee didn’t like.

The simple truth is, the Sooners were ambushed by those bid-stealers, and those injuries, and they fell on the wrong side of the vote.

“I get them moving us down with the bid-stealers,” Moser said. “I get that part of it. I don’t get where our metrics, I feel, across the board, are higher than some other teams that got in. And I’m not going to name specific teams. I don’t want to take away joy from them. I just, fighting for our guys, fighting for how good the Big 12 was, and I’ll say that moving forward: you can’t put a limit on how many teams in a league is. That’s just not a reason not to take a team.”

Moser, of course, broke the cardinal rule of sports voting. If you want somebody in or on, you’ve got to name who goes out or off. Is it Virginia that sticks in Moser’s craw? Boise State? One of the Colorado schools?

Sorry. You don’t get to call out the committee without offering a suggestion.

Moser seemed preoccupied with those bracketologists. He seemed to think the bracket predictors have as much credibility as the committee members. Which is quite odd. That’s like putting more stock in political pollsters than in the actual voting results.

Moser said the 20 most reputable bracketologists all had the Sooners in. I have no idea who the 20 most reputable bracketologists would be, or how anyone would know them. 

Bracketmatrix.com tracks all 256 bracketologists who regularly project the NCAA Tournament. In the last five years, only once has a predictor finished in the top 10 of projections more than once — Richason Bros. And the Richasons had OU in the field.

But is Richason Bros one of the 20 most reputable? Does Moser actually mean the 20 most prominent? Like ESPN’s Joe Lunardi?

Lunardi’s final bracket had OU as the last team in and Virginia as the second team out. Instead, the Sooners were the last team out and Virginia was the last team in. Lunardi hit it as stiff as you can, but just having OU as the last team in shows that the Sooners were absolutely vulnerable of being left out. And they were.

This is not science. This is art. I like this painting more than that painting. I like this pepperoni pizza better than that pepperoni pizza. I like Dodge Rams better than Ford F-150s. The next guy that walks in might see it differently. There’s no way to explain it. 

Bracketology is fun. Committee voting is work. The committee is vastly superior to some kind of solitary metric. Vastly superior to some kind of computer program. 

Committee members can use metrics and analytics. They can use their eyeballs. They can use their common sense. 

The NCAA basketball committee should not be called out. They should be appreciated, for a thankless job that draws only derision, when a team that ties for ninth in its 14-team conference believes it’s entitled to March Madness because bracketologists said so.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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