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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Mike Bobinski will be well-suited as chair


No need to offer up scheduling excuses when Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski takes over as the chair of the men's basketball selection committee in 2012-13.

If you want into the NCAA tournament as an at-large school that season, then you best take care of business in the offseason when it's time to handle the games you can control.

The selection committee has taken this stance for years -- scheduling and then winning those games, especially away from home, tend to be the most important aspect of Selection Sunday.

Former chair Tom O'Connor of George Mason certainly understood the need to schedule up. And UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero had that mindset, too. And while outgoing chair Gene Smith (Ohio State AD) and incoming 2012 chair Jeff Hathaway (Connecticut AD) are on board as well, no AD has had to manage a schedule as well as Bobinski.

Xavier has always prided itself on managing its nonconference games as if they were prized possessions. The Musketeers aren't afraid to play games away from home in true road fashion or certainly on neutral courts.

"He understands what it takes to be an NCAA tournament team,'' Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "He has helped us build our schedule the last 10 years or so. We're also a basketball-only school. We don't get sidetracked. We're never on that football mission at our school. I don't think there is a better AD in the country. He'll do a tremendous job. I told him, 'Don't screw it up.' And he won't.''

This season, XU will play games at Memphis, Butler and Vanderbilt, three likely NCAA tournament teams and conference contenders. The Musketeers also play home games against Purdue, Georgia and rival Cincinnati and will participate in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu with possible postseason teams like Kansas State, Clemson, Long Beach State and UTEP.

"There's no question that since I've been on the committee the last three years we've seen what's important, to see how teams test each other with different competition around the country,'' said the 53-year-old Bobinski. "We've tried to follow that model. That's the way we're evaluating team A vs. B.''

Of course the argument from some of the power-six schools is that they have a tough conference slate to get through. And while that's true, ignoring the games that they can schedule is simply playing ignorant to the process. Ask last season's teams from Alabama or Colorado if nonconference scheduling matters. Both played well in their respective conferences but really had nothing to show in the nonconference portion of their schedules.

"It makes it clearly more challenging to overcome a decidedly poor nonconference schedule,'' Bobinski said. "The reality is that you have to be an exception the rest of the time or you put yourself in great risk and it becomes a much more tenuous situation in order to get into the field.''

Bobinski is just one vote out of 10, but he will be the spokesperson for the committee and can certainly be influential in 2013. He also will come at a time when the committee needs him most. Like it or not, Smith and Hathaway were tabbed to serve on the most important, influential and high-profile NCAA committee despite both of their athletic departments' highest-profile programs being investigated by the NCAA for rules violations.

Smith won't be on the committee when the hearing for OSU's football program occurs. Hathaway's timing has helped him since he wasn't the public figure of the committee during UConn's hearing. Each member of the committee has a five-year term.

"Jeff will do a terrific job,'' Bobinski said. "He's a bright guy and knows the game at a high level. I'll build on what he does this year.''

The committee met two weeks ago in Park City, Utah, and discussed tweaking the First Four just a tad after its inaugural run. The First Four concept was adopted once the field was expanded from 65 to 68 with two games between 16 seeds and two that involved the last four at-large teams in the bracket.

"The First Four was great and the validation couldn't have been stronger to get a team from the First Four to the Final Four,'' Bobinski said of VCU. "That may never happen again, but it happened in the first year.''

The scheduling criticism was valid, though, as Clemson beat UAB in the First Four in Dayton and then had to quickly turn around and play West Virginia in Tampa two days later in the noon ET television slot.

Bobinski said that won't happen next season.

"We will not put teams at a disadvantage as much as they were last year,'' Bobinski said. "So you will see some subtle changes. We've talked to our broadcast partners [CBS and Turner] and they said they will work with us. The second- and third-round sites are more favorable geographically, so the travel won't be as bad for those teams in advance, plus they'll work with us on the game time. We don't want to put Turner and CBS in a bad situation, but they understand it's difficult to put a team in an early game after a late game.''

The eight sites for 2012 are Pittsburgh, Louisville, Columbus, Nashville, Omaha, Greensboro, Portland and Albuquerque. So don't be surprised to see the four winners of the First Four games kept within the first four cities mentioned since all are more than manageable from Dayton. The regional sites this season are Boston, Phoenix, St. Louis and Atlanta, with the Final Four in New Orleans.

Bobinski said the setup of having Tuesday and Wednesday feature one at-large matchup and one 16 vs. 16 game each won't change since it worked well "ratings-wise'' for Turner.

"We'll stay the same way next year and evaluate it,'' Bobinski said.