There’s no perfect bracket, but it’s not for lack of effort on NCAA tournament selection committee’s part
Those of us fortunate enough to have participated in the NCAA Mock Selection process learned firsthand that there’s no such thing as a perfect bracket. Even with 37 at-large bids available, there’s always team No. 38. You can’t escape tough decisions.
Committee Chair Jeff Hathaway said he and his fellow Selection Committee members realize the scrutiny involved with putting together what we know as March Madness. It’s one reason why the NCAA has made the process more transparent in recent years. The Mock Selection exercise is just one example. This year, the NCAA’s official RPI, Team Sheets, and Nitty Gritty reports are available online at www.ncaa.org. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can view the same reports and data used by committee members. You can even find the Principles and Procedures for Establishing the bracket at the NCAA site.
Here are few quick notes from Friday (click here for Thursday’s notes):
Seeding the Field of 68 isn’t completed until all 68 teams are selected. Team A doesn’t have be placed as an 11 or 12 seed just because it was one of the final at-large teams selected. As “scrubbing” of teams is completed, the s-curve changes. During our mock exercise, we ultimately moved a few teams around on the s-curve before we began placing them into the bracket. NCAA team members said this is a common occurrence. Teams move up or down during the final rankings, and sometimes those teams are moved a seed line to accommodate the bracketing process.
Greg Shaheen of the NCAA said the Selection Committee often spends up to 40 hours “scrubbing” teams during the seeding process. You may disagree with where a team ends up, but it’s not because every team wasn’t thoroughly evaluated. As a reference, we spent about an hour and a half “scrubbing” through the seed lines.
A group of committee members is assigned specifically to the bottom quadrant (Seeds 13-16). Although 13-16 seeds are often automatic qualifiers, Hathaway stressed that it’s important for every team to be evaluated and seeded correctly.
Finalizing the Mock Bracket ...
We opened the day by selecting (by vote) the final at-large teams. Due to lengthy discussions, this process took almost an hour. Ultimately, our last four at-large teams were: Alabama, Illinois, Seton Hall, and Arizona. Xavier would have been the first team out had the Musketeers not won the Atlantic 10 mock tournament. Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee St, and NC State ended up as teams that just missed. The Bearcats’ No. 330-ranked non-conference schedule was discussed at length, and the voting process eliminated them.
In our bracket, the First Four games at Dayton were: Alabama vs. Illinois, Seton Hall vs. Arizona, Mississippi Valley State vs. Stony Brook, SE Missouri State vs. UT-San Antonio. The Alabama-Illinois winner was slotted into the 10-seed line in the West Region. The Arizona-Seton Hall winner was slotted in as the 12-seed in the Midwest. Bracketing conflicts caused both to move one seed line in each direction (both were set as true 11 seeds). As a side note, had Dayton been among the First Four teams, the Flyers would have played on their home floor.
Our final bracket ... 2012 Media Mock 2.17.2012
Our s-curve rankings ... 2012 Media Mock Seed List 2.17.2012
Keep in mind, we selected and seeded teams based on results through Wednesday (Feb. 15). We then made adjustments based on mock tournament results. For example, Mississippi State won the SEC Tournament, North Carolina won the ACC, BYU won the West Coast, and San Diego State won the Mountain West. We tried to reflect these outcomes into our decisions. With time constraints, however, we had to move quickly, so we didn’t have the same time as actual committee members.
Kentucky, Syracuse, and Missouri were clear No. 1 seeds and were easily placed in spots one to three on the s-curve. Then it got tricky. Ultimately, we voted Ohio State into the four spot, moving them into the final No. 1 seed position. During bracketing, we slotted Kentucky to the South Region because the mileage between difference between Lexington and St. Louis was minimal (STL was a little closer), and Atlanta is a natural region for UK. Those things are all taken into account. Syracuse was next, and obviously went East. Missouri to St. Louis was a no-brainer. As an interesting sidebar, it was noted that had Duke been slotted South, it could have set up a possible rematch with Kentucky in a Regional Final exactly 20 years after the legendary game in New Jersey. Had it happened, it would have been a product of the process, not something that was planned. We placed North Carolina there because UNC had first choice on the s-curve and we chose geographic location (Atlanta) over the true s-curve (East). Hathaway said that would have generated a lengthy discussion during the actual process. We simply didn’t have the time.
That same process continued as we filled out the bracket. Surprisingly, it went smoothly despite the need to move a few teams one line to meet requirements.
Whether you agree with our results isn’t important. The goal was to demonstrate how the process works, without prejudice or pretense. We were afforded the same tools and techniques. Everyone left with a new appreciation for what transpires in Indianapolis each March.
If nothing else, remember this: the men and women charged with selecting, seeding, and bracketing the NCAA tournament take their job seriously. They live and breathe basketball from November through March (actually much longer). They watch hundreds of games. They toggle through data for hours on end. You may or may not agree with every decision. Then again, there’s no such thing as a perfect bracket.
Follow Dave on Twitter @BracketguyDave.