clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

After the word 'irony', the word 'dilemma' is probably the most misused word in the English language. Nowadays, it is most often to used to describe any uncomfortable situation. The correct definition is: "a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives." The NCAA's tournament selection committee found themselves in a dilemma in the truest sense of the word after Saturday's games finished up. There's been a lot of talk about the what the "right" decision for the last at-large spot was, but the fact of the matter is that the committee was going to be wrong with whatever they chose.

On one hand, they could stand behind their math that was agreed upon before the season, or they could have differed slightly from that formula and picked the team that nearly everybody agreed belonged in the tournament. In the end, they chose to stick with their math. Here's what Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told College Hockey News:
"As challenging it might be to explain how [Wisconsin] got there (to those unfamiliar with the process), how hard would it be to explain how they didn't get there when the numbers say they should. ... And I should mention, (Wisconsin) hosting had absolutely nothing to do with it."
I like to think of myself as someone that understands the process pretty well, despite having few mathematical skills. But I could still use some further explanation.

Everyone seems to be getting bogged down in comparing Minnesota State and Wisconsin. Instead, it's better to compare Minnesota State and Northern Michigan. The question I keep asking myself is, did Northern Michigan(20-20-4 overall record, 6th in the CCHA) really have a better season than Minnesota State(19-16-4 overall record, 4th in the WCHA)? I'm not sure you could find any person on the planet that believes that is the case. But according to the computer that is used, that was the case. It's one of those weird, flukey outliers that goes against every shred of common sense anyone has. If the committee turns a blind eye to that anomaly, you'd be hearing a lot less debate about the selection process today.

You do have to give the committee credit for sticking with their guns. They were committed to using the system that was in place, even though it came out with a less than desirable result that seemed to defy all common sense. Ultimately, that is the point of using a mathematical formula. It would have been wrong to deviate from that just to justify the proper result.

That said, if the committee wants to hitch their name to a failure of a formula, then then they have to deal with the consequences of being considered a failure by association. They may be able to perfectly explain how they came up with that decision, but that explanation involves saying that Northern Michigan had a better year than Minnesota State, and I'll probably go to my grave believing that isn't the case, and that MSU belonged in the tournament.

It's a true dilemma. I think the committee made a bad decision, but the other option wasn't any more desirable. Somebody was going to come away from today disappointed, and would have had a very legitimate reason for being disappointed. There was no "right" decision here that would have made everyone happy. The only right thing to do now is to make sure the committee finds a formula that doesn't put them in another unfortunate dilemma again.