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Friday, February 12, 2010
First-day notes from the NCAA's mock selection committee

By Eamonn Brennan

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- I am drunk with power.

OK, not really. One of the first few things you learn about being a "member" of the selection committee -- as part of a yearly simulation run by the NCAA wherein a group of media members act as pretend tournament operators, going through a condensed version of what the real selection committee will do in a month -- is that you're kind of powerless. Not entirely powerless, of course; if you're vocal, you can be a difference-maker. But you quickly learn that there's no accounting for taste, and that's as true in basketball as it is in anything else.

Does your fellow committee member hate RPI? Does the chap across the table think Purdue is a No. 1 seed? And just who put North Carolina in the "considerations" pile, anyway? Deal with it, deal with it, and -- well, OK, that last one is ridiculous. You don't have to deal with that.

These are the things we spent most of Thursday balancing. If there's one major thing I learned about the selection committee in our first day, it's that this is how the NCAA likes it. There should be disagreement. There should be an RPI-obsessed guru in the room. There should be your classic, even stubborn "I know because I watch the game" guy down the table. There should be an informed member willing to discuss why, say, the quirks of Illinois's schedule hurt its case for an at-large bid. The NCAA wants this balance, wants it to fluctuate from year to year, and if that balance produces a choice that horrifies your brilliant basketball mind, well, tough. You're just one committee member. You did your best. Now live with the result.

It's been a fun process so far, but we have lots of work ahead today -- we still need to seed a whole mess of teams, as well as adjust our inclusions based on new fake conference tournament "results" coming in -- so let's keep moving. For now, here's a few other rambling thoughts from the first day of my turn as a fake selection committee member. For a full chronology of what the committee actually did all day yesterday (which teams were included, which ones were ranked, and which ones are still on the board), see Lexington Herald-Leader writer John Clay's blog, as well as the full summary on NCAA.com.


We're thick in the throes of arguing over the last few teams in, so I should stop typing, but in case you're curious about the exact step-for-step process the committee goes through, here's the same document of principles and procedures we received and reviewed before beginning yesterday.  We've heard plenty about the NCAA's desire to increase the selection committee's transparency, so it doesn't need to be repeated again, but keeping documents like this public is a good way of doing so.