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I had the pleasure of attending my fourth NCAA media mock selection committee meeting in Indianapolis the last couple of days and we were given an inside look at the processes and procedures the real committee goes through to select, seed and bracket the field. Some special attention was given to bracketing because those procedures are new this year.
This past off-season, the committee relaxed some of the bracketing rules pertaining to how soon teams from the same confernece may be bracketed to meet in the tournament. The purpose of this was to allow the committee greater flexibility with the intent of being able to keep teams closer to their true seed. The committee has the ability to move a team up or down one spot from its true seed to help meet the bracketing rules, but in recent years, with conferences getting larger, they found themselves using that exception too often for their comfort.
Now, teams from the same conference can meet as early as the round of 32 if they only played each other once during the regular season. That made the bracketing process significantly easier. When we put our bracket together, we were only forced to switch two at-large teams (Providence and West Virginia) that were playing in the First Four to avoid a conference conflict. Every other team is on its true seed line.
Also, the commitee no longer requires keeping the top teams from each conference in separate regions. They will still do that if those teams are top 4 seeds, but after that, all bets are off. That's why you see Arizona and UCLA, the top two teams from the Pac-12, in the same region. UCLA is a six seed, so the rule doesn't apply.
Of course, it took a while to get to the bracketing part of the process. The real committee tries to start bracketing on Sunday morning, although there are games on Sunday that can cause them to create multiple brackets based on potential results. We never had to create multiple brackets, but we did have to deal with the possibility of a bid being stolen in the Big Ten final by Illinois. That particular scenario can be a nightmare for the committee because that game runs almost all the way up to the start of the seceltion show on CBS.
In our case, we worked on where to seed the Illini if they won. Saint Joseph's was the team that was hoping the Illini lost to Michigan State. No such luck for the Hawks, as the NCAA staff declared the Illini the winner (for educational purposes only). That's why you see the Ilini in this bracket. The staff decided all the conference champions for our exercise, so if you wonder why your conference-leading team isn't in the bracket, that's why.
Duke was the winner of the ACC title, which bumped them up a little in our bracket. We had quite a discussion over Kansas and Florida for the final top seed. Some liked Kansas' record-setting strength of schedule (the strongest I've seen in 20 years by far). Others thought they had too many losses, including one to the Gators. Ultimately, Florida won out, and as it turned out, Kansas ended up in their region anyway. That was a coincidence. Bracketing is largely a geographic process, although there is a stated desire for some level of balance among the top four seeds in each region. Note that does not mean perfect balance. The teams aren't snaked based on their 1-68 ranking, nor is that even considered desireable. That said, our bracket came out nearly perfectly balanced based on seed numbers, and that happened naturally. We didn't adjust for balance after placing the teams geographically. That is unusual.
The selection and seeding process itself is a seemingly never-ending series of votes to put teams in the field as at-large selections, then seeding. Each process starts with picking a pool of the best eight, then ranking those from 1-8 and the top four either get into the field (during the selection process) or seeded. Teams are in the at-large pool, even if they could still win their conference tournaments and automatically quaify. If that happens, it just increases the number of at-large teams needed.
I would say that our committee was unanimous in that it was very difficult to find 36 worthy at-large teams. We weren't unanimous about much else. That's what happens when you put 10 people in a room. Well, about 15 in our case, as some were paired up.
Now that I have seen them, I think the new bracketing rules will make for a much more fair bracket, even if it means we have conference rematches earlier than we are used too. That's a small price to pay for a more fair and balanced bracket.
NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Media Mock 2014 Seed List
Click on a team's name to get its full RPI profile similar to what the committee sees
3. Wichita St.
6. Michigan St.
9. San Diego St.
14. Iowa St.
16. Saint Louis
19. Ohio St.
23. Kansas St.
25. North Carolina
34. George Washington
36. Arizona St.
37. Oklahoma St.
40. New Mexico
46. West Virginia
51. Louisiana Tech
52. UC Santa Barbara
53. Stephen F. Austin
54. Georgia St.
55. Cleveland St.
57. N.C. Central
63. Utah Valley
64. Stony Brook
65. Coastal Caro.
66. Northern Ariz.
67. Alabama St.
68. Eastern Ill.