The selection committee never sleeps

While sitting courtside and watching San Francisco have its way with San Diego during the opening game on Saturday, Zaninovich had four other games going on his laptop: Oklahoma State at Iowa State, Pittsburgh at Clemson, Texas at Texas Tech and Oklahoma at TCU.

He's heavy on the Big 12, because it is one of the three primary conferences he is assigned to monitor, along with Conference USA and Southland. But he'll watch no fewer than 12 different games on his laptop this day. He even checks in on Duke-North Carolina on his iPhone.

Tennessee is blowing out Missouri. Says Zaninovich, "This is an important game."

Arizona State loses at Oregon State. Says Zaninovich, "I'm not surprised ... Arizona State is not very good on the road."

He's asked what Arizona's loss at Oregon means. Says Zaninovich, "A lot of basketball left."

When Oklahoma State's four-game winning streak ends in overtime at Iowa State, it's a missed opportunity for the Cowboys. But Zaninovich emphasizes it doesn't fall into a major category that can move a team's estimation significantly up or down: A big road win or a bad loss.

"Oklahoma State losing a tight one at Iowa State is neither," he says.

While Zaninovich's college basketball immersion on this day is significant, it's not total. Because he's away from home so often in March, he's brought along his family, which includes wife, Karen, and sons Max, 7, and Lucas, 5.

Max shares his father's passion for hoops, and he sits transfixed much of the day. It's difficult not to take note of the poignancy of the scene, with Zaninovich, arm around Max, explaining the game's nuances. These father-son moments, however, are even more meaningful than they normally would be. The previous week, Zaninovich buried his father, George, a former political science professor at Oregon who played basketball at Stanford in the 1950s.

"In some respects, it's good to be busy at a time like this," he said. "I'll take my moments when I need them."

Zaninovich grew up watching games with his father at Oregon's celebrated McArthur Court, "running around the third balcony as a kid."

"He's where I got my passion for basketball," he said. "I don't think I'd be sitting here if he didn't instill that in me."


Zaninovich's preparation for his third year on the committee began in November after he received his list of primary and secondary conferences (Pac 12, Big West, Summit and Big Sky). He and his WCC staff put together a spreadsheet of every game in those conferences that will be on TV -- date, time and station -- in chronological order. Slingbox and DVR are essential tools for committee members.

He also saw teams firsthand at a number of early-season tournaments -- the Champions Classic in Chicago and the Maui Invitational in Hawaii during Thanksgiving weekend -- as well as a number of Pac-12 home nonconference games. He keeps track of how often he sees each team. If he hasn't seen a team, he makes plans to see it.

He's not much into preseason previews, nor does he pay much attention to early-season "bracketology."

"I try not to let predictions influence me," he said. "From the integrity of the process standpoint, it's really important to treat the current year as the current year and not let a historical brand or expectations influence you. Look at Kentucky this year. Or even Michigan State. Those are teams you've got to evaluate on what they did [this year]."

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