The selection committee never sleeps

"We look at individual teams on the team sheets. We recognized individual games. We know what conference teams are in, but we never think, 'Oh, are we going to put six or seven in from that conference and three from another?' That really never comes up."

He also thinks fans lean too hard on individual games -- seemingly big wins or big losses -- taking on huge meaning, particularly late in the season.

"This notion that any one win or loss is somehow definitive related to tournament selection is pretty overblown," he said.

He also wants fans to know the committee isn't into mischief-making with its bracketing process, which is practically automated with its emphasis on geography and balance.

Particularly intriguing or potentially controversial matchups falling in a large-market venue?

"None of that is ever discussed or even contemplated during the process," he said.


So what does happen inside a committee meeting?

On Wednesday, the committee members submit an initial ballot via a computer program with the names of all eligible 339 Division I college basketball teams on it. In the first column, they vote "In" for as many as 36 teams. Those teams, in the committee member's estimation, should get an at-large berth, regardless of what happens in the conference tournaments. In the second column, they vote for teams that should be "under consideration" for an at-large berth, with no minimum or maximum restrictions.

A team that gets all but two "In" votes gets a berth. A team that receives three or more "under consideration" or "In" votes gets put on the "under consideration" board, listed in alphabetical order, along with teams that won their regular-season conference titles.

In ballpark terms, that typically means 22-27 teams are "In" for 36 at-large spots, with additional at-large spots opening as those "In" teams win their conference tournaments. So the average starting point for discussion is over roughly nine to 14 slots open for at-large teams.

Then, of course, the fun starts. A working list of the top eight teams is pulled from the "under consideration" board, and committee members rank each in a series of votes, with the top four eventually getting into the field. Before the votes to list and rank teams occur, of course, there is discussion, with "team sheets" being put before the committee members to allow them to compare teams' credentials, head-to-head.

Here's an example of a conversation that might take place, adopted from a description from Zaninovich:

Committee member 1: Team X's road record is better, but Team Y's nonconference is better.

Committee member 2: Yeah, but I've seen Team X play. That team is better than Team Y.

Committee member 3: What does the conference monitor think of Team X?

Committee member 4 (conference monitor): I've seen them play 10 times. They had an injury here [points to red area of team sheet indicating losing streak].

Committee member 2: Let's take down Team X and compare Team Z to Team Y.

At any time during the process, the committee can begin seeding teams, using a "true seeds" list of 1 through 68.

In Zaninovich's experience, feelings don't get hurt, nor do emotions rise during the discussion.

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