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Gonzaga Basketball

Blanchette: First ‘Bracket Preview Show’ will reveal tremendous amount of nothing

In this Jan 14, 2017 file photo, Gonzaga University Kennel Club members get wound up before the Zags played Saint Mary’s in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

The suits who guard the guest list for college basketball’s big party embody a little of the doofy high school principal trying to be down with the kids.

The latest stab is Saturday’s “Bracket Preview Show” for the NCAA tournament, the first midseason release of the top 16 seeds – so far, mind you – as determined by the committee in a huddle this week. This development has been greeted with undulating huzzahs because:

It’s new!

Guess it’ll get people talking if nothing else.

It’s transparent!

Oh, right, it’s that thing football does every week.

Just how meaningful or pointless will this televised (9:30 a.m., CBS) exercise be?

Well, consider that it will go on the air not quite eight hours before Gonzaga plays at Saint Mary’s in a game that could blow up the bracket’s top line, if not the whole thing.

Who took away these guys’ calendar?

Now the basketball talk this generates will carry the instant epilog “but that was before Florida State tripped over its provisional seed line on Saturday” – or words and teams to that effect.

You know what rhymes with Selection Sunday?

Here’s what doesn’t: “Projection Saturday That Will Be Outdated by Midnight.”

Why the committee picked Friday night to shut down their computers for this sneak peek at the Teams Most Likely to Anger Their Fan Bases by Being Upset by Florida Gulf Coast the Third Weekend in March is a mystery. Probably they had to catch flights back to their day jobs as athletic directors and raise another $100,000 to hire a new Coordinator of Internet Memes for Rowing.

Imagine if the committee’s February get-together in Indianapolis had happened a week earlier. Its 1-through-4 seeds would have come out on Saturday morning – and six of the top 10 teams in the poll fall would tumble before day’s end.

In any case, this progress report on what the committee’s been up to so far is now a thing, and for that we can thank a panel put together by the National Association of Basketball Coaches – Gonzaga’s Mark Few was a part of it – who nudged the NCAA selectors to re-evaluate some of their old ways.

“What it was about more than anything was getting more clarity,” Few said earlier this season. “(Coaches) are always looking for insight into what the committee bases its decisions on. It’s a huge component in scheduling for us.”

Problem is, the committee will never – maybe can’t ever – give coaches a list of what will get them in the tournament.

And just what the early reveal will clear up in that regard is, uh, unclear. But it’s not going to do any harm.

Unless of course this happens to catch on with the public and it demands multiple preview seedings. That’s not likely. It’s a sad fact that while sports fans care about football week to week, they care about college basketball mostly in March.

Surely the committee wouldn’t be too jazzed.

“Whether they’d consider multiple ranking shows, there are a lot of logistical challenges with that,” said NCAA senior vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt in a teleconference Wednesday, when he was pinch-hitting for selection chair Mark Hollis of Michigan State. “Not the least of which is the frequency with which basketball games happen on a nightly basis. And the committee doesn’t get together in person except for this week and then in March for selection week.”

The more substantive of the NABC’s suggestions was that the committee broaden its use of other metrics in its deliberations, and perhaps even come up with a hybrid to replace the much-reviled Ratings Percentage Index and “makes the selection process more relevant,” Gavitt said. This led to a sit-down with the more renowned numbers-crunchers a couple of weeks ago, and some philosophical navel-gazing about results-based metrics versus more predictive algebra.

Not sure why the committee should be in the prediction business. Just play the games. But there aren’t going to be any changes until next season at the earliest, Gavitt said.

There was no preview of the preview on Wednesday’s teleconference, meaning you’ll have to tune in Saturday to learn if the Zags are a No.-1-for-now seed. And that’s likely to remain the thickest of plots even up to the final reveal, as all the down bracket action – who’s in and who’s out – will be about middling Power 5 teams cannibalizing one another. Bad times in conferences like the Mountain West and Atlantic-10 will suck out even more Cinderellas than recent years.

But don’t put too much stock in Saturday’s Top 16. As committee vice chair Bruce Rasmussen of Creighton noted, including conference tournaments there are roughly 1,350 games remaining to be played.

And – starting with the Zags and Gaels – those will be a lot more interesting than what’s happening behind closed doors in Indy.