Chat with Greg Shaheen
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, former NCAA executive Greg Shaheen, who oversaw the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship for 12 years, stops by to chat as Selection Sunday approaches. ESPN hired Shaheen to provide insight into the creation of the tournament bracket.
Shaheen, @gashaheen, resigned in April 2012 from his post of executive vice president, championships and alliances, where he launched the NCAA tournament's "First Four" round of games, as well as negotiating the orgnization's TV broadcast deals.
Send your questions now and join Shaheen Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:39 PM)
Greg Shaheen oversaw the NCAA Tournament selection committee for 12 years. He'll be by in a few minutes to take your questions on this year's tournament!
Some teams, I would assume are in regardless of their conference tournaments, so do you begin seeding them prior to the weekend?
Greg Shaheen (3:42 PM)
Sure, the committee took the initial ballot Wednesday at the end of the day. From there, any teams that received the support of all but two of the committee members would already be in the at large pool. This weekend's games are important to some teams, for their inclusion in the tournament and for others to where they will be seeded. But no more important than any of the other games throughout the season.
How down to the wire do the selections go?
Greg Shaheen (3:43 PM)
Well, the committee will try to complete the at large field by the time it ends business late Saturday night. That includes contingencies for slots that will open up as a result of Sunday's play.
Greg Shaheen (3:43 PM)
Sunday is largely spent making final adjustments to the seeding and then preparing the bracket.
Do you think conference tournaments should finish earlier so the committee can have enough time to look at the teams that finish on Sunday?
Greg Shaheen (3:44 PM)
The committee has always been clear that it will make its best effort to evaluate play through the release of the bracket Sunday evening. With that said, there is a point in time as Sunday goes on that the committee's ability to factor in the full weight of events becomes more difficult.
What's the worst prevailing rumor or misinformation you still hear about the selection process?
Greg Shaheen (3:45 PM)
There are a few...
Greg Shaheen (3:46 PM)
The belief that the committe is bracketing the entire week, when in reality, they are selecting and seeding all week and they get to bracketing on Sunday. Second, the misunderstanding of reliance on conference affiliation, which is relevant for the 31 AQ's and when we get to bracketing. Otherwise it's not referenced at all. Finally, the misinterpretation of the use of RPI. It's largely used to organize information that the committee has available to it.
Greg, advanced metrics and analytics are pretty big in sports right now...is there any sort of metric that the committee uses to help get a better handle on teams?
Greg Shaheen (3:47 PM)
The committee is aware of and has available to it various ratings and metric systems that are published. It's up to each committee member how much credence they give to any one element or combination of elements. The committee regards the "eye test" to be important regarding how a team's performance matches up with the statistical profile they see on paper.
I have heard mixed messages about the value of teams improving or dropping based on their respective conference tournament. How much does the committee factor in those results?
Greg Shaheen (3:48 PM)
Again, the games are counted equally as with all other games throughout the season. With that said, because of the differences between many teams for selection and seeding are so minute, a head to head competition among relevant teams late in the season certainly will be a topic of conversation within the committee.
As a committee do you look at "blind resumes" when selecting teams?
Greg Shaheen (3:49 PM)
Good question. It's a topic that has come up from time to time since the segment began on SportsCenter a few years ago. The short answer is in the course of conversation, at times, committee members may reference two teams without regard to their name. So it comes up in conversation in the room from time to time. But it's not a formal part of the process at this point.
How often do commitee members talk during the season?
Greg Shaheen (3:51 PM)
The committee meets three times before, from the start of the season until selections and may have one or two teleconferences. Additionally, each committee member is assigned to monitor 3-4 conferences along with another member. They'll have conversations about the conferences they are assigned to monitor.
I know everything is supposed to remain objective and its all about a team's resume, but the human factor says that it's not always possible to simply ignore the jersey. How did you on the committee avoid any issues with that?
Greg Shaheen (3:52 PM)
The benefit of having ten voices in the room is that there can be a difference of opinions, but yet a common vigilance regarding if a comment veers too far in a direction that could reflect a bias. I think there is enough respect in the room to call that. While such circumstances may be rare, the group itself is committed to keeping a focus on the quality of the team and not its brand.
Hardest part of your job was what?
Greg Shaheen (3:54 PM)
On the whole, working on this tournament as well as working at the NCAA was an experience that was both exciting and interesting while also being challenging at times. There are hundreds of thousands of student athletes and there are institutions that rely on good service from the national office I consider the time I was at the NCAA to have been both humbling and rewarding, even on the days when the world criticizes your work, a la Selection Sunday.
Greg Shaheen (3:55 PM)
And I know that my hundreds of colleagues felt the same.
Did you ever think you'd be on TV talking about the selection process?
Greg Shaheen (3:56 PM)
No. I'm honored to have a face for radio. But pleased to have the opportunity to chat more about the process and help people understand how it works.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hello Greg, What goes into choosing between teams that have 20+ wins and 10 losses, didn't win their conference but played significantly well in their conference tournament?
Greg Shaheen (3:57 PM)
In a typical season, more than 100 teams have 20 wins. Seeing as how we only have at large slots to fill, the committee would have to look at which teams they played and where and how they played them, as well as key injuries throughout the season.
Greg Shaheen (3:57 PM)
So, the win totals is not relevant nor is the win percentage in conference, which is also referenced by those who aren't familiar with the guidelines.
How important are recent wins compared to early season victories? Is a surging team given preference over a strong regular season team that is stumbling into the tournament?
Greg Shaheen (3:59 PM)
Each committee member will process that information differently. The committee used to have a criteria involving last 10 (and later 12) games, but chose to eliminate that from the information it had available, because it was mistakenly referenced as a priority more than the reality would suggest.
Greg Shaheen (3:59 PM)
The committee recognizes that teams mature throughout the season and "gel" and would expect the quality of team performance to improve as we get to the end of the season. Certainly that's the case moreso than for others.
How do injuries come into play for a team say for RK with Duke ?
Greg Shaheen (4:00 PM)
The committee will track injuries throughout the season and track how a team does with and without the student athlete. Certainly the review a team's performance with that in mind. As an aside, that also applies to student athlete availability because of academics or violation of team rules or other reasons.
how do you like the first four now?
Greg Shaheen (4:02 PM)
This is the third year. The first year of the first four, VCU went from the first four to the Final Four. The next year, President Obama attended the games. We'll see what happens this year. The First Four did what the committee wanted which was provide a positive experience for teams officially in the tournament, and who have benefitted from the additional slots over 64 that have been created in the last 15 years.
Rich (Bradenton, FLA)
Hi, The field is currently at 68 and every year there seems to be a list of 6 or 8 teams that should have made the tournament. Will the NCAA expand to 72 teams in the future?
Greg Shaheen (4:03 PM)
That's up to the membership. At this point in time the general sense is that 68 feels about right. The great thing about the tournament is that there will always be the debate about which teams are in and which are out.
Greg Shaheen (4:03 PM)
Thanks for the good questions. Keep 'em coming!
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