Buddy Hield

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield drives the lane during a game against Texas Tech at Lloyd Noble Center.

There's a distinct pattern to every edition of March Madness.

We watch the Selection Show, we process whom the teams we follow are playing, what region they're in and where they're seeded, and where they're going to play.

Then, we look at the overall bracket, take note of the snubs, and spend about 24 hours passionately making arguments one way or another.

Then, the anger fades. The resignation sets in that no amount of arguing is going to change the bracket anyway. You get excited about your office pool bracket. Then the narcotic of the first-round games kicks in and you completely forget what you were mad about to begin with.

Hey, I'm no different. By Thursday, I'm almost always in this boat. That's because I'm also like many people in believing the NCAA Tournament is one of our greatest postseason treasures.

Precisely because it's one of those treasures, we shouldn't forget that feeling we have on Sunday night, when we're commiserating with the likes of Monmouth as to how they could be left out of the field of 68. How unfair it is. How the processes the NCAA uses are flawed.

We shouldn't forget. Monmouth, a low-major team that played by every criteria laid out in past selections -- playing power conference teams on the road and beating them being chief among them — suffers in silence now. As we marvel at buzzer-beaters and upsets, we should still be mindful of their snub.

It's not just the plucky, unheralded underdogs either. Look at the Big Ten Conference's seedings in the tournament. There is little justification for Michigan State being a 2-seed, or worse, Indiana and Purdue being 5-seeds.

It all points in one direction: The NCAA Tournament selection process is long overdue for an overhaul.

The selection process is an exercise in how bureaucracy has created a monster. It's an exercise in how a once-advanced model (RPI) to sort out the teams has become arcane. It's an exercise where the sands seem to shift with every passing year in terms of what the criteria is for being selected for an at-large berth, like a dune in the Sahara Desert.

The bureaucracy part of it has evolved over time. It's become such a plum appointment for athletic directors to be on the selection committee (it happens in other sports, too) that changes to the structure of the selection committee itself (including a wider berth of whom should be on it) have calcified over time. Does it make sense that athletic directors and league presidents are the only members included?

Then there's the tools used. The primary computer-generated measurement the committee uses -- the Ratings Percentage Index, the famous RPI — was a somewhat advanced model when introduced in 1982, but it has fallen behind advanced metrics created since, such as Ken Pomeroy's excellent Kenpom model.

Worse, completely arbitrary cutoffs used to include or exclude the worthy and unworthy, like top 50 and top 100 wins, are based on the flawed RPI.

The worst part of it, though, are the shifting priorities and "messages" sent every year by the committee as to what it takes to be selected.

The NCAA takes great pains to make it plain that their process is based on objective rules and guidelines.

They're not lying. There's a long list of what you can and can't consider when looking at a team for inclusion or how to seed it. Whittling down the field includes a voting process on top of more voting processes that are designed to separate wheat from chaff and dilute bias.

It's a well-intended system, but what I tell people constantly is that it's an objective process that one can bend in whatever subjective matter one desires.

Nearly every year, there are tweaks to the system, many designed to offset criticism from a previous season's selection. Maybe the issue du jour was not rewarding road wins? Perhaps it was the thought there were too many upsets? Or not enough? Perhaps it was the effect of conference realignment and expansion and the idea that an equitable system needs to be created for inequitable schedules?

It all becomes mumbo-jumbo if you follow it year-to-year. Ask Monmouth. The committee has sent the "message" that mid-majors and low-majors should strengthen schedules, and moreover, beat those teams. Monmouth did everything it could. It played and beat UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown. It won 13 road games, more than any other team.

So what happens? The sands shift and the committee gave Monmouth demerits for three sub-200 RPI bad losses, each of them road games inside its conference.

Meanwhile, five teams below Monmouth in RPI, the criteria the NCAA has chosen, were included as at-large teams. Of those five, only Tulsa made the same effort Monmouth did to play on the road. And their conference losses were deemed more forgivable.

Shifting sands. It's like Animal Farm on the hardwood. It's no wonder mid-major teams, such as those in the Missouri Valley Conference, see no benefit to beefing up their schedules. Why bother? The committee will just find a different way to exclude.

What needs to change? Here's a few suggestions:

• Change the makeup of the committee — Open up committee membership to a wider and more diverse berth of candidates. Include former coaches, and don't just use analytics, include those who created the formulas to help determine the field.

Or, if you want to maintain a closed shop, increase committee size so each conference is included. Since most of the process (the voting) is computer-generated anyway, it shouldn't matter how many members there are.

• Make the process transparent — If the NCAA is so confident in its rules and criteria it instructs its committee members to follow, then why shouldn't light be shined on how they follow it? We should see, hear and know how the committee goes about its business. It would make for great TV too.

• Scrap the RPI and get rid of arbitrary cutoffs — The RPI has outlived its usefulness. Go with Kenpom or another model and stick with it. End the practice of using top 50 and top 100 wins as a cutoff for measurement. It makes no sense.

• Once you find a new system, give it more weight — The NCAA always maintains that the RPI isn't the only criteria the committee considers. (Despite the fact it's the only one used in its computer models.)

That's fine for RPI, because we've already identified that it's flawed, but once a new and better system is found? Make it more ironclad in how committee members are required to use it. A good measurement should take all question of "eye test" out of the equation.

• Exclude teams with .500 or below conference records for at-large consideration — Conferences that have unbalanced schedules will cry foul as no conference schedule is created equal.

Tough. No matter how good a conference is, on a certain level, you have surrendered the right to complain about inclusion if you're at .500 in your league. In most leagues, that's nine losses. Too many.

By this criteria, 2016 at-large teams Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Texas Tech, USC and Oregon State would be on the outside looking in. See the pattern here?

Even so, no power conference would have fewer than five eligible teams available for inclusion this year. Somehow, I think they'd manage, especially if they adjusted their conference schedules to cover themselves from potential damage.

• Consider expanding the field — I've never been a proponent of this in the past, but given the problems that have developed over time, perhaps its time has come.

An expansion to 96 would create a bye for the top four seeds in each region. If you coupled this with the .500 or above standard, it would have the right mix of power conference and mid-major representation.

Not only that, but the First Four Tuesday and Wednesday games, which most fans view as a blow-off, would suddenly become an integral part of the tournament as it would now be a full day of action.

Take out the Dayton travel component, play the games Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday or Wednesday-Friday-Sunday at one site, and it would work well.

Something has to be done. We all love the tournament, but it can be better, and while the excitement of the games will make us forget the process, it's a process that's long overdue for change.

Todd Aaron Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute (Indiana) Tribune-Star.

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