A JERSEY GUY: NCAA Selection Committee Does NOT Do A Number Count On Conferences

Mark Blaudschun

The NCAA has tried.

It has opened up the process as much as it can.

It has held seminars for journalists, allowed them in mock bracket meetings.

Yet, every year, the same complaints are heard.

The same grousing about how the Have's (Major conferences) get an unfair share of consideration when it comes to selecting the 36 at-large teams in the 68-team men's NCAA basketball tournament.

Here's a question we are likely to hear on March 15th (Selection Sunday).

Why did the 9th place team (for now, let's say Indiana) in the Big 19 receive a bid, while the No. 2 team in the Southern Conference (let's say Furman) get excluded?

Or this: How can the Committee include 10 teams from the Big Ten in the tournament?

Here's the answer almost no one believes.

Until, it's all done, the NCAA Selection literally doesn't know how many teams from each conference are in the field.

There is NO conference by conference list compiled.

I took part in one mock selection process.

It was exhausting and intense, but one factor was evident. Each team selected was involved in a match play situation.

It would be a North Carolina State vs. Purdue, comparing each team's W's and L's, strength of schedule, NET (or then) RPI rankings. The winner would move on, the loser would be eliminated, and then it might be Purdue vs. USC or Wichita. This happened 36 times, until the field was selected.

There never was a discussion looking at the field, where someone said, "Do you know we already have 8 ACC teams in the field?"

The NCAA rules are explicit: "The committee selects the best 36 teams not otherwise qualifiers for their conference to fill the at-large berths. There is no limit on the number of at-large teams the committee may select from any one conference."

"Prior to the selection meeting each committee member receives an "initial ballot'' comprise of two columns listing all eligible teams in alphabetical order.

In the first column, each committee member shall identify not more than 36 teams that, in that member's opinion should be an at-large selection.

In the second column, each member should (select teams that will) receive consideration for at large berth.

Each committee member's vote is recorded, noting the top choices.

"Any team receiving all but two of the eligible votes in Column 1 is moved into the tournament field as an at-large selection.

In that way, the at-large field is filled, ballot by ballot, with NO list compiled of the number of teams from any one conference.

It is the media that does the projections before the field is announced and the counting AFTER the field is announced. Not the selection committee.

Having said that, the debate between whether a runner up in a mid-major conference is better than the 7th, 8 or 9th team in a major conference is subjective at best.

The easiest way to reduce any inequities is to guarantee each conference regular season champion the automatic bid, which should be a reward for a team like East Tennessee State n the Southern Conference, which still must win its tournament to guarantee a spot int NCAA field, despite a superior (21-4. 13-2) record and credible (39) NET ranking.

But that isn't happening now, or perhaps in the near future, so we must live with the system and continue to tweak it.

***

The Big 12 had a national showdown on Saturday of potential No. 1 seeded teams when Kansas traveled to Baylor to face the No. 1 ranked Bears. Kansas, which had lost to Baylor in Lawrence in January, evened the count with as 3 point victory.

Both teams remain solid No. 1 solid seed picks. The other two potential No. 1--Gonzaga and San Diego State--lost, but also look safe for now simply because no one else appears ready to fill the gap.

It has been that kind of college basketball season.

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Mark Blaudschun

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