Bracketology Trip: NCAA Mock Selection Committee: Part Four

February 18th, 2012
Now that I'm back from the NCAA's Mock Selection Committee, I finally have time to sit down and answer some of the many questions asked by readers and followers on twitter. Sitting in with the likes of Committee chairman Jeff Hathaway and NCAA Senior VP Greg Shaheen (the person who understands the selection process best), I certainly know more about the process than ever before.


While the NCAA does have guidelines on how the process works, ridiculously titled "NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Principles and Procedures for Establishing the Bracket," it does not really give you a clear picture. That document, as I noted in my last piece on the event, cannot explain how much time is really spent deliberating about the merits of each team. Tons of arguments are made, and statistics are mulled over to come to decisions. Perhaps even more information is thrown into the discussions than is really needed. The fact that committee member X watched team Y and thought they looked swell and had great guard-play is nice.. but not necessarily relevant to ranking teams. Regardless, thousands of man-hours are spent in the process.


So while my 15 hours spent in the Mock Committee might not stack up to those thousands, the types of discussions had and the process used was roughly the same.


Taken from twitter, here are some interesting questions and their answers. The language of some questions was changed for grammar (and or expletive) reasons. For reference, check out the final NCAA Mock Selection Bracket.


@stevenwolfjr What are the bracketing guidelines that cause changes in the s-curve?


If the Tournament was held at one venue, then you'd expect teams to play each other in a pure s-curve. However, due to many scheduling issues, the bracket is not set up as a pure s-curved. In fact, teams not only get moved around within a seed, but can change entire seeds. (Seton Hall for example was the 43rd team, in the 11-seed range, but ended up in a 12-seed game). The NCAA does a good job spelling out the scheduling concerns in the Principles and Procedures document noted above. Some of the big ones: Keeping teams close to home, not putting too many teams from the same conference in the same region, not playing on one's home-court, etc.


@DadofTwins2 Ohio U is playing in Nashville & Belmont sent to Louisville. Could they have reversed? OVC is the Nashville host, not Belmont.


This question speaks to the scheduling issues discussed above. Belmont ended up as a 14-seed. Located in Nashville, it seems logical that Belmont would have been sent to play their home games there considering they were not the official host, and thus could play in that venue. They also did not play 3 times in that venue, and so were not precluded by that rule. But, the committee aims to protect teams in the first 5 seeds from playing "road" games. Thus, the committee felt it was unfair to Marquette to have to force them to play Belmont in Nashville.


@charlespeterjr The eye-ball test is garbage. Why is it included?


The "eye-test" is certainly controversial. Besides the pure results, the committee is "encouraged" (Jeff Hathaway's word) to bring their knowledge of teams learned by watching/attending games to the table. This helps ensure teams pass the "eye-test." In other words, the "eye-test" enables the committee members to bring completely subjective feelings to the table. I was blown away when Greg Shaheen mentioned that 50-60% of the discussion that takes place is this sort of discussion.


This brings up one of the major lessons learned from my days in Indianapolis: while the committee is supposed to be selecting the "best" teams (whatever "best" means), there are no real set criteria for how they go about this. Individual members can focus on the RPI (or not), the Sagarin (or not), the Coaches Poll (or not), favor quantity of wins or quality of wins, etc, etc.


@columbusbuck Where did Northwestern and Minnesota finish? First four out?


Neither of these teams made the field, and there was no specific ordering of teams not in the field. Based on discussions and voting, I'd guess they were within the next 8 teams out. Note however that the Mock Selection was based on Mock Conference Tourney results, which included a lot of upsets. I think there were 2 or 3, maybe -4 less at-large teams than would be expected in the real bracket. Thus being 6th out in the Mock might put them 2 out in reality, and thus firmly in the mix.


@jamesgurland What did the committee think of Seton Hall?


Seton Hall ended up being one of the last four at-large teams in the field. Though Seton Hall has a high RPI, their quality wins are looking less impressive as the season wears on. The win over UCONN is no longer considered elite due to UCONN's struggles, and West Virginia has faded as well. Wins over St. Joe's and Dayton, while rsolid, would have been more respected if one of those teams made the at-large field.


@ervinsm What was said about Xavier and Cincy? Which one did the committee like more?


Xavier ended up as an 11th seeded automatic qualifier after winning the nock A-10 tournament. Cincy was left out in the cold. While Cincy does have big wins (at G'Town and at UCONN), the committee was turned off by a couple things: a) The home loss to Presbyterian (fluke or not) is still shocking when compared to other tournament-level teams, b) losses to sub-100 RPI teams St John's and Rutgers don't look great, c) Cincy got blown-out by fellow bubble squad Xavier, d) Cincy's pathetic non-conference schedule including 9 sub-200 teams was almost offensive to the committee. In the end, while Xavier did not make it as an at-large team, they were respected slightly more.


@setty1333 Do they ever consider margin of victory?


One of the reasons the NCAA uses the RPI is that because the RPI does not take into account margin of victory.  Committee members can look at other rankings that do use this data, and there was a lot of discussion about how close or not teams played in individual games. Xavier really blew out Cincy, Florida barely topped Arizona, etc, etc. So while committee members seem to care about margin of victory, the RPI does not.

@bearcatsblog What's going to happen to Murray St when they lose in their mock conference tournament?


This was perceptive. The Mock results did in fact have Murray losing to SEMO in the OVC finals. Murray ended up 27th in the seeding order, but before that SEMO loss, they were only a few spots higher so I can't say the committee killed them for that mock result.

@waldenORU What does committee value most when comparing mediocre BCS teams to quality mid-majors. Quantity or quality of wins?


The answer is simply that each committee member can bring their unique perspective to the table. Some people favored teams with 5 quality wins, even if they had 10 tries. I favored teams that might have only won 2 quality games, but only had 3 tries.


Shawn Siegel took part in the NCAA's "Mock Selection Committee" in Indianapolis. Check out the Bracketology Blog for commentary on the event and the selection process. He'll be back with one more article on the event before moving on.