Syracuse Basketball: Rick Pitino wants Jim Boeheim on tourney's selection committee

Rick Pitino says former long-time Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim should be on the tourney's selection committee.
Rick Pitino says former long-time Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim should be on the tourney's selection committee. / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

In recent days, there have been a lot of comments directed at the NCAA Tournament selection committee and the NET rankings, including from Hall of Famer and former long-time Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim.

The 2024 Big Dance got underway in earnest on Thursday. Boeheim, and other current and former head coaches, have taken issue with the NET rankings system, as well as with some teams that were left out of the field of 68, including Big East Conference schools like Seton Hall, St. John's and Providence, as well as Atlantic Coast Conference member Pittsburgh.

While it's an annual rite of passage that some groups left out on Selection Sunday are going to feel snubbed - right or wrong - I did find it interesting that St. John's head coach Rick Pitino, a Hall of Famer, a two-time national champion and an Orange assistant many years ago, is floating some big-time names for potential inclusion on the NCAA Tournament's selection committee in the future.

One of those names, per Pitino, is Jim Boeheim. Pitino also thinks that two other Hall of Famers and retired head-coaching legends, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and Roy Williams of North Carolina, would be a good fit on the selection committee. Intriguing.

Former Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim has called the NET rankings system ridiculous.

Here's a post on X from Pitino a few days ago: "Have a great suggestion for Dan Gavitt, who is absolutely the best. I know three guys who are watching games all year n would be a great addition. They won't just look at certain metrics. Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams n Coach K. They need to be part of selection Sunday!!!"

Gavitt, by the way, is the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball. An article this week from ESPN's David Hale noted that the current 12-person selection committee "is made up of nine athletic directors and three conference commissioners."

Candidly, I'm not sure if there is any sort of rule prohibiting a former coach from being on the selection committee. There could prove a possible conflict of interest, I suppose.

What Pitino is getting at here is that he, and numerous other current and former head coaches, think that analytics and metrics are over-emphasized when the at-large berths to the field of 68 are determined.

I'm not saying here that Boeheim should be on the selection committee, but I do believe that in this day and age, analytics and metrics such as the NET rankings could be de-emphasized a bit.

I'm an old-school guy, and to me, the "eye test" is important. How is a team playing toward the end of the season? Who a potential participant in March Madness beat during the regular season, and where, and by how much, that's all factored in, and that's okay.

Last Sunday, Boeheim, who has been serving as a studio and game analyst for the ACC Network this term, said in part, "We’re not getting the best teams in the tournament, we’re getting the best NET teams in the tournament, which means over the whole course of the year and if you play a bad schedule and you win all those games by a lot of points you’re going to have a good NET. ... And that’s who’s getting in the tournament."

Now, there are two-sides to this argument. Yes, if teams play weaker opponents in the non-conference, for example, and beat up on those foes, that could improve their NET rankings. At the same time, if certain squads beat up on sup-par opponents, those aren't necessarily going to qualify for coveted quadrant-one and quadrant-two victories.

In Hale's piece, he wrote that Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, also a Hall of Famer, agrees with Pitino that the NCAA Tournament's selection committee should have additional input from former coaches - and players - "rather than relying so heavily on athletic directors dissecting analytics."

"There definitely should be some coaches and players on that thing to bring some levity to as crazy as it's gotten," Izzo said, according to Hale. "I never know what the NET means, what KenPom means, what ESPN means or the Daily News. There's so many things out there right now that do influence [the committee]."

I'm the first to acknowledge that, year after year, there will be some teams that feel that they got snubbed on Selection Sunday, and that will never change. Selection-committee members are human beings like the rest of us, and we all have our opinions. The at-large squads picked for the annual Big Dance is a somewhat subjective process.

I do, however, agree with Pitino, Boeheim, Izzo and others that maybe it's time to rely less on analytics and metrics. Naturally, some are saying that the NCAA Tournament should simply expand, and that could prevent some of these perceived slights.

However, even if March Madness goes to 96 participants, for example, I can pretty much guarantee you that even with a bigger field, some squads that didn't make the cut are still going to complain. And, from my perspective, such an expansion will dilute the product - that is, the NCAA Tournament.

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