Ray Ratto

Ratto: No NCAA bid? Try the NIT, CBI or CIT


Ratto: No NCAA bid? Try the NIT, CBI or CIT


So heres the deal; Saint Marys got jobbed a little bit, and Randy Bennett may be torqued off hugely today, but he has his world and we have ours.

And our world says that when you ask non-basketball people who have earned their patronage spurs by never crossing the NCAA to sit in a room and make educated guesses about which team is better than which other team, mistakes will be made, and screwings will commence.

In other words, like the BCS, the system is gamed a bit. Live with it, or pray fervently that the NBA returns one day to Northern California. Or go to Folsom this weekend and watch the 10 NorCal basketball finals.

But having gone 20 years without the empty feeling the Bay Area has today, the only thing to do is expand ones vistas. If the NCAA cant grab you because its happening to other people, then do this instead:

The Mega-Bracket.

Anyone can whip through an NCAA bracket; frankly, we have our own contest, and my entries are, as always, stone locks -- especially the eventual champions, the Indiana Pacers.

But if you want to find satisfaction while defending your local prerogatives, you need to find some friends, some alcohol, some designated drivers, and go deep.

Deep as in the other tournaments. The ones were invited to.

Like the NIT, with Kent State at Saint Marys Tuesday and Mississippi at Cal Wednesday.

Like the CBI, with San Jose State at Creighton.

Like the CIT, which has Santa Clara hosting Northern Arizona Tuesday and USF entertaining Idaho on Wednesday.

Those three tournaments eat 72 teams, which when you throw in the 68 in the NCAA makes 140 of 345 possible, or roughly 40 percent of the membership. That makes it the third most-exclusive club in North American sport, behind only baseball and the now-extinct NFL.

But then you throw in the womens side, where Stanford will be the Kansas of the field and is joined by UC Davis and Fresno State. And then theres the womens NIT, where Cal and Saint Marys might sneak into the 64-team field, plus the 16-team womens CBI field to total 144 womens teams. Those fields will be announced Monday night.

In other words, let people fulminate about the NCAAs, and how the tournament committee apparently got progressively more drunk as the weekend went on. You can work the less traveled side of the street, and still have the more familiar bracket for your less imaginative friends.

Because youre smarter than most, you can look at the NCAA bracket and laugh: You sign on to the others, and you can tell your reprobate friends that you follow 284 teams. They pretend to know about Virginia Commonwealth; you get to pretend to know about Quinnipiac.

I mean, lets face it: If the big kids arent going to invite you to their party, go out and make a bunch of your own. Just remember -- it doesnt have to be important to anyone else to be important.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about


The four Super Bowl storylines everybody will be talking about

The Monday after the conference championships is devoted to replaying the games we already saw, but Tuesday is devoted to the assembling of the narratives that we will weary of no later than Friday.

And while football purists and gamblers, two demographics on the opposite ends of the Moebius strip of degeneracy, will cheerily break the game down to its molecular level, the rest of us will resort to a few tired carthorses to get us to the start of our individual Super Bowl parties.


This will be an argument with no resolution, as those who see history as preordination will see New England as invulnerable, pointing to their record, Philadelphia’s record, and the comfort of the mortal lock. But if it helps you maintain suspense, the Patriots have never won, or even played in, a Super Bowl with a margin as high as a touchdown – the margins have been 3, 3, 3, 4, 4 and 6 in overtime. In short, Bill Belichick’s brain, while always impressive, has never been an overwhelming presence against John Fox, Andy Reid, Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll or Dan Quinn.

In other words, luck matters, and luck is good.


This is ridiculous because the Patriots are in painting-the-gold-bar-gold territory. People long ago made up their minds on Belichick, Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and the rest of the shifting cast of characters – they are either brilliant exemplars, or nefarious cheaters, or both. That’s the great thing about the Patriots – they can be heroes, villains and metaphors for 21st Century America, depending on what you decide. But their place as football figures has long ago been decided, this game will change none of that, and the only thing left is what to carve on the statues.


There are lots of Americas out there, as we are learning every day, and more people probably are rooting for the Eagles just to see something different. That’s not the way to bet, I grant you, but the best way to handle these next two weeks if you do not wear either New England or Philadelphia jerseys is to say nothing. These are two fan bases with reputations, if you know what we mean, and even if you come across gentle souls with a rooting interest, play the percentages. Even the nice ones can turn at any moment.

And finally, JIMMY GAROPPOLO. This discussion only matters of Bob Kraft cops to telling Belichick he ordered him to be moved. Which he won't, damn his eyes. And if Brady looks good next Sunday, they'll take credit for a brilliant move that saved the franchise because history always works best in the rear-view mirror.

NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills


NBA All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills

The voting for the NBA All-Star starters was properly instructive to both Adam Silver and the public at large about exactly what the game is meant to be – which is why I totally get their decision not to televise the All-Star draft.

It’s really a personality test for everyone involved, for good and ill.

I think having a draft nobody can see is idiotic, stealing an idea the NHL used and then discarded years ago and then not employing the reason why they did it to begin with, but if the All-Star Game is really an expression of ego, then the next best thing to having no draft is having one nobody can see.

The All-Star Game really only functions as a coronation of the elite by the elite, a festival of mutual backslapping friend-rewarding that has nothing to do with the playing of the game, or the moving of the T-shirts or jerseys or expensive hotel rooms. This is about stratifying the player pool so that everyone knows who’s who and what’s what.

Everything else is irrelevant, and the draft reinforces that. Kevin Durant not wanting to be a captain is strategic thinking by a future industrialist. Stephen Curry not minding being a captain is the perfect who-cares statement for someone who doesn’t mind playing the game because objecting to it takes too much work. LeBron James being a captain is the perfect political muscle-flexing that fits his personality.

Damian Lillard already assuming that he won’t be named to the team is a statement about his being considered the perpetual one-level-down guard. Russell Westbrook being named and then controlling the ball as he would in a regular season game is a statement about how he views his place as a disruptor. And on and on and on – the All-Star Game more and more reveals personalities rather than skills.

Does televising the draft help us understand the actual meaning of the event? Maybe, but the NBA would prefer you consider it a festival of the game itself, which it plainly isn’t. Proof, you say? 192-182 in 2017. 196-173 in 2016. 163-158 in 2015. 163-155 in 2014. There hasn’t been a normal-looking score in 15 years, which means it’s not a game at all.

That isn’t the news, though. It’s that the NBA has made this is a three-day event – the day the captains and starters are named, the day the reserves are picked, and the day that teams are chosen. And every bit of it is about the reaction to that. There is no show thereafter, and the players know it. They care about the selections, because that’s how they’re keeping score.

So go team. Whatever the hell that means.