The very first post I ever submitted to this site was about the Tennessee girls high school game in which both teams tried to lose. On purpose. They did so because losing increased each team’s opportunity to advance in the upcoming state playoffs. Coaches were punished as well as school and much outrage was aimed at the teams and especially those in charge.
But I found fault with a different group. The state. they are the ones who make the rules. And once they do, how can we fault someone for trying to use those rules to the advantage of the team. This seems OK to me. After all, many wars have been won while sacrificing a battle.
Which leads me to Buzz Williams. Trailing by double figures late, his Hokies hit a three to cut the lead to eight. Rather than foul on the next possession in hopes of perhaps miraculously winning this particular contest, Buzz decided not to foul and take the eight point loss.
Why? Because the new NET rankings which have replaced the old RPI now reward teams for margin of victory. An 8 point loss is now better than a 10 point loss. A 15 point loss is the same as a 10 point loss.
So is Buzz wrong to be playing the system rather than trying to win? Absolutely not. Bids and seeding matter in the NCAA tournament. And the big goal is to make and advance in the tournament. therefore, Buzz is using solid, forward-thinking logic to enhance his team’s chance to do exactly that.
Am I offended by this philosophy? Absolutely not.
But I am offended by a system that rewards such things. As Herm Edwards said once so eloquently, “You play to win the game!” By 1 point or 5 or 10 or whatever. Margin of victory should have nothing to do with anything. But alas, someone somewhere has to have the “perfect” program to spit out the exact data because it’s science you know.
But, if that is the way it is, then how dare we criticize coaches like Buzz Williams from using the system to his advantage. We should not. But the way in which and others will use the system is an unfortunate, unintended consequence. And it only goes to show that any man made system will always have flaws. Always. And people will find those and game the system. Always.
That is not the fault of the people gaming the system but a fault of those who created and the system itself.