All season long we plan on projecting the NCAA tournament brackets, highlighting key games and situations that will affect the brackets, and discussing the potential seedings and bids.
I've been doing this for the past five years as a hobby. Some people play golf or collect stamps. I'm a college basketball nut. I've never gotten them all right, but last year, I had 63 of the 65 teams in the field correct and 59 seeded correctly or within one of the actual seed, which was more accurate than any major network or website that I know of. I typically get 63 or more teams correct, and have never had fewer than 51 within one of the actual seed.
When I do the brackets, I am simply trying to project what the NCAA selection committee will do as accurately as possible. The brackets do not always reflect what I think is or is not fair, but simply what I believe the committee will do. WHAT THE COMMITTEE CONSIDERS
-CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS. There are 31 NCAA Division I conferences and all the champions receive automatic bids. All but the Ivy League have a tournament at the end of the season to determine their champion. This is why you see teams like IUPUI, Holy Cross, and Vermont in the tournament over Clemson, Boston College, and other big name schools.
-RATINGS PERCENTAGE INDEX (RPI). This is a general rating of relative strength. It is often the main focal point of the media, but in reality it isn't any more important than anything else the committee looks at. However, only once has a team received an RPI better than 30 and been left out, and that was Missouri State in 2005-06. Here is a look at how the RPI is calculated:
-25% win/loss percentage
-50% opponents' win/loss percentage
-25% opponents' opponent's win loss percentage
(***NOTE*** Often you see where a team's RPI is 22, or a certain number. The RPI is a percentage, NOT a ranking. When you see that a team's RPI is 22 it means that they have the 22nd best RPI)
Since the 2004-2005 season, home wins count as 0.6 wins, and road wins count as 1.4 wins. In other words, if Temple has played six games, and is 4-2 with three wins at home and one on the road their record in the RPI would be would be 3.2 wins. Likewise, home losses count as 1.4 losses while road losses are counted as 0.6 losses. If both of Temple's losses came on the road, they would have 1.2 losses.
Everyone starts the season out at zero, so this really does not begin to take shape until mid December or so and becomes more and more practical as the season goes on.
-STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE (SOS). This is another mathematical formula that consists of the following:
2/3 a team's opponents' W/L record
1/3 a team's opponents' opponents' W/L record
-OUT OF CONFERENCE SOS. I do not know exactly how important it is, but they do calculate it exactly the same way they calculate it the regular SOS and the committee does look at it.
-QUALITY WINS. A quality win is a win over a team in the RPI top 50. Additional recognition is also given to wins over teams in the RPI top 25. In other words, if a team has a good RPI, but very few quality wins, it is likely they will be seeded lower than teams with the quality wins regardless of what the other team's RPI is. With Gonzaga and Indiana getting bids in 2003, I think it showed that quality wins early in the year are just as important as quality wins at the end of the year.
-BAD LOSSES. A bad loss is a loss to a team that is not in the RPI top 100 or the RPI top 200. These games work against you and are viewed as demerits. In 2003, Gonzaga was the first (and so far only) team to ever receive an at-large bid with two losses to teams not in the RPI top 200.
-NABC RANKINGS. This is the one thing that the public does not see. One coach from each conference is selected to rank the top 15 teams in their geographic region. There are four regions, thus there are four top 15 polls. The best gage for this is the AP, and especially the Coaches' poll because they are calculated in very similar ways, but there is no way of knowing for sure. Only the selection committee sees these rankings. Committee members also conduct interviews with all 31 coaches who vote.
-CONFERENCE STANDINGS. It is unusual for team A to finish higher in the conference standings than team B and for team B to be selected for an at-large bid while team A sits at home. We do see it in conferences like the Big Ten and Big Twelve, but that is because teams play unbalanced conference schedules. It's also uncommon for a team to finish lower in the conference or division standings than another team and receive a better seed than the team ahead of them. There are only one or two situations each year where that happens. Obviously if a conference only sends one team to the NCAA tournament, this does not come into effect. Also, in conferences that do not play a balanced schedule such as the Big Twelve, Atlantic Ten, ACC, Big Ten, C-USA, Big East, etc, this is considered. When a team does not play everyone home and home, it can impact how easy or hard it is to finish higher in the standings so the committee will consider conferences that aren't balanced.
-INJURIES AND SUSPENSIONS. The committee gives strong consideration to the team's roster that will be playing in the NCAA Tournament. If a team loses several games where contributing players did not play due to injuries or suspensions, it will be taken into consideration so long as those players will be available to play in the NCAA tournament. That being said, if a contributor goes down due to injury or suspension and will not play in the NCAA tournament, that is also considered.
-ROAD RECORD. Winning on the road does more for teams than winning at home in the eyes of the committee. A perfect example of this is last year's Florida State team who had four wins against RPI top 25 teams, but missed the tournament because they were lousy on the road.
-LAST TWELVE GAMES. The last 12 games of the season are looked at a little closer. A Perfect example is the Texas Tech team from 2002-03. A very high strength of schedule and a decent RPI with some good wins, but they were 4-6 in their last ten regular season games. On the flip side, that same year Oklahoma was 8-2 with 6 wins against RPI top 50 teams and 3 against RPI top 25 teams and wound up with a deserved 1 seed (although the last ten games were by no means the only reason, they probably would not have gotten it otherwise). Winning like that against teams like that in the final ten games can really boost a team's seed.
-HEAD TO HEAD COMPETITION. If two teams have similar resumes and played each other during the season, it will often be the deciding factor in who gets the nod as far as getting the higher placement. RULES OF PUTTING THE BRACKET TOGETHER:
If you ever want to play along at home, here are all the rules of the bracket. It is very easy to overlook some of these. Well, maybe it isn't easy, but I seem to do it more than I'd like to.
1. No two teams from the same conference can be placed in the same region and be seeded #4 or better unless more than 4 teams from the same conference make the pod system.
2. No two teams from the same conference can meet before the Elite Eight unless more than eight teams from that conference make the tournament.
3. At no point before the Final Four can a team play on their home floor. A home floor is defined as a region where a team is hosting, or an arena where a team played more than three games during the season (not counting the conference tournament).
4. BYU and Campbell cannot be placed in a region or pod where they could potentially play on Sunday.
5. If possible, teams that met during the regular season cannot meet in the first two rounds (this is especially a pain in the butt because it is impossible for me to keep track of 65 schedules. I don't even try to follow this one unless I know it for sure).
6. Rematches from the previous year's tournament are to be avoided in the first and second round if possible.
7. Teams that receive a #5 seed or better are protected from a "home" crowd for at least one round. In other words, Oklahoma City is a home crowd for Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. Indianapolis is a home crowd for Indiana, Notre Dame and Purdue. If one of those teams were to make the tournament and receive a #12 seed or worse, they could not be placed in Indianapolis.
-IN ORDER TO MEET THESE REQUIREMENTS, TEAMS CAN BE MOVED UP OR DOWN 1 SEED FROM THEIR ORIGINAL SEED. (a #6 seed could be seeded #5 or #7 in order to meet the requirements, but can be moved no more than that).
-Sometimes the most aggravating part isn't selecting the teams, but meeting the requirements (ESPECIALLY if conferences have more than 7 teams in. I have had oversights before as several have pointed out. Sometimes it is like doing the rubrics cube. I was never good at that either. A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SELECTION PROCESS:
1. The selection process takes place during most of the conference tournaments. People are under the impression that all this magically happens in the hour between the end of the Big Ten championship game and the start of the selection show. Umm...no. They start on Wednesday and finish on Sunday. it is a multi-day process. Most of everything that they look at has been given to them before the conference tournaments are played. That's not to say that the conference tournaments aren't important, but 95% of what they look at involves what happened during the season.
2. There are ten members on the committee. On Wednesday, each member submits a ballot of up to 34 teams who they feel is definitely deserving of an at large bid in the event that they do not win their conference tournament. Selecting 34 is not necessary. It can be less than that, but not more than that. Every team that receives eight or more votes is placed on the board and in the tournament. All teams who did not receive eight votes are placed on a second board that I like to call the "Consideration Board."
After this, a second vote is taken. Committee members are asked to list teams who they feel deserve consideration, but are not definitely in the tournament. Every team listed is put on the consideration board.
The debating begins.
In order for a team to be moved from the consideration board to the tournament board, they must receive eight votes. Likewise, in order for a team to be moved off the tournament board and back onto the consideration board, it takes eight votes. All regular season conference champs and division champs are placed on the tournament board when the process begins, but this is really a moot point. If Morgan State wins the regular season MEAC championship but loses in the conference tournament, they'll be on the consideration board, but as I said earlier it will take 8 votes for them to make it, which they won't get. In that case, the conference tournament is important because the automatic bid is generally the only way in.
Once the field of 65 is determined, the seeding process begins. The criteria they follow is the exact criteria I have outlined above. Like the selection process, it is done by votes. The committee comes to a consensus of who the best eight teams are. After that, a vote is taken where the members rank the teams 1 through 8. The top four teams are the #1 seeds. Next, four more teams are selected and grouped with the four teams who were not voted as #1 seed. Another ballot is taken where the teams are ranked 1 through 8. the top four are the #2 seeds. And so on and so fourth.
After all the teams have been selected and seeded (generally Saturday night) the bracket is then put together.
-All the teams seeded 1-4 are bracketed using the S Curve.
-After that, the locations are assigned with an attempt to keep all the teams as close to home as possible. The better an S Curve ranking a team has, the more likely it is that they'll be kept close to home.
-After that, the teams seeded 13-16 are placed in the bracket using the S Curve.
-After that, the teams that are seeded 5-12 are placed in the bracket with an attempt to keep as many as close to home as possible. The S Curve is not used when placing these teams in the bracket
-After that it is submitted to CBS and they read it out to the nation. Shortly thereafter, the complaining begins from dissatisfied fans and coaches who either think they were seeded too poorly, or just left out altogether. 2007-2008 NCAA MENS' BASKETBALL SELECTION COMMITTEE:
Tom O'Connor (George Mason Athletic Director) (Chair)
Dan Guerrero (UCLA Athletic Director)
Jeff Hathaway (Connecticut Athletic Director)
Lynn Hickey (Texas San Antonio Athletic Director)
Chris Hill (Utah Athletic Director)
Laing Kennedy (Kent State Athletic Director)
John LeCrone (Horizon League Commissioner)
Stan Morrison (UC Riverside Athletic Director)
Mike Slive (SEC Commissioner)
Gene Smith (Ohio State Athletic Director)
-A member must leave the room when a team or conference they are affiliated with is being discussed. For example, Daniel Guerrero cannot be in the room whenever UCLA or anyone else from the Pac Ten is being discussed. That goes for everyone. Obviously, some will be spending much more time in the hall than others.