Welcome to the NET, where things can apparently get a little dicey.
Nevada finished off its eighth straight win at Colorado State on Wednesday night. and in and of itself, this wouldn’t be particularly remarkable. A good portion of the second half was tight, with the Rams within as few as six points with under eight minutes left. But an upset wasn’t to be as an avalanche of Jazz Johnson and Jordan Caroline free throws kept the game at arm’s length.
Nonetheless, it finished with some drama. Up 14, the Wolf Pack tossed in an alley oop with just seconds left. CSU coach Niko Medved didn’t seem to appreciate it.
Musselman talked on @hoopvision68’s pod about how they wouldn’t just dribble out the clock or not play D at the end of games bc efficiency factors into the NET and “every possession matters.” Not sure the CSU staff is cool with that. pic.twitter.com/cE792NZWvv— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) February 7, 2019
Per the body of the tweet above, it seems like Eric Musselman — a coach as attuned to analytics as any — is doing what he can given the alleged importance of the NET to the Selection Committee. Medved acknowledged as much in his postgame comments, but still didn’t seem on board with it.
Nevada threw an alley-oop while up 14 with just seconds remaining in the game. I asked Niko Medved about that play & what was going through his mind when it happened: #CSURams #Nevada #mwbb pic.twitter.com/KUc5UDsIsY— Justin Michael (@JustinTMichael) February 7, 2019
It’s not just mid-major coaches adjusting how they coach a game based on the NET.
For example, NET caps victory margin at 10 points to avoid teams running up the score. And Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said after his No. 11 Hokies lost Monday to No. 16 Louisville that the rankings formula was one reason he called a timeout down 11 with 21 seconds left.
The Hokies got a late 3-pointer to fall 72-64.
”According to all the research I’ve found, if you win by 10 or more, that helps,” Williams said. “If you lose by 10 or more, that hurts. So 21 seconds left, you’ll see a lot of that. It’s been going on. I think it’s just now kind of coming to the surface. ... The basket at the end, it was in a losing effort, but decimal points maybe it matters even though we don’t know the formula.”
It’s hard to fault them for it, especially those fighting an uphill battle outside the power conferences. Medved’s point is well taken: the Martin dunk in the waning seconds probably won’t on its own bump Nevada up to, say, a three seed. But at the same time the approach from Musselman makes perfect sense, especially if high major coaches are entertaining it.
The Committee has given mid-majors no margin for error in recent years, both when handing out bids and seeds. That’s why C-USA and the Sun Belt have made drastic changes to their scheduling formats, in large part to simply try and get deserving teams into more manageable seeds.
The NET, and whether it’ll actually mean anything, is obviously still a work in progress. But in the meantime, you’re certainly seeing its effect on the court.