Saturday, March 8, 2014

NCAA Selection Sunday

On March 7, 1982, that the NCAA Tournament Selection, also known as Selection Sunday, was first broadcast on live television.  Since then, a live broadcast of the event, which takes place the weekend before the tournament begins, has been used to inform each school of whether they have made it into the tournament, and where they will be seeded.

Both CBS and ESPN televise the selection process, however, CBS owns the official rights to cover the selection of the men’s tournament field as they broadcast the vast majority of the games.  What will happen, as a result, is CBS will announce each bracket first, followed by ESPN only seconds later.

The selection process for College basketball's NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships determines which teams (68 men's, 64 women's) will enter the tournaments (the centerpieces of the basketball championship frenzy known as "March Madness") and their seedings and matchups in the knockout bracket. Thirty-one teams gain automatic entry through winning their conference's championship (commonly through winning a conference tournament or, in the sole case of the Ivy League, the regular season title).

The remaining teams (37 men's, 33 women's) rely on the selection committee to award them an at-large bid in the tournament.

The selection process primarily takes place on Selection Sunday and the days leading up to it; Selection Sunday is also when the brackets and seeds are released to the public. (The women's championship brackets and seeds are announced one day later, on Selection Monday.)

The ten-member basketball selection committee is made up of athletic directors and conference commissioners throughout Division I men's and women's basketball. (There are separate committees for the Division I men's and women's tournaments.)

The committee, whose members serve 5-year terms, is chosen to ensure that conferences from around the country, both major and mid-major conferences, are represented. Generally the men's selection committee consists of all men, and the women's selection committee consists of all women, although there have been exceptions, including Lynn Hickey (see below), who is the 2nd woman to sit on the men's committee (after Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose, who served from 1999-2003), and Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference commissioner Richard Ensor, who serves on the women's committee. The tournament selection is only part of the committee members' duties; the panel meets year-round (in-person or through conference calls) to discuss the tournament and its administration, evaluate teams, assign tournament game officials, and determine future tournament sites.

To avoid a potential conflict of interest, committee members must leave the room when their own school is being discussed--or schools in the case of the conference commissioners. The member may be invited to answer factual questions regarding their team (e.g. status of player injuries). An athletic director may be present when other schools from his or her conference are discussed, but he or she may only speak if asked.

The selection committee must first decide which teams will compete in the tournament. Thirty teams receive automatic bids to the tournament by winning their conference tournament; a thirty-first team gains automatic entry by winning the Ivy League's regular-season championship (as that conference does not conduct a championship tournament).

The only teams the selection committee selects are the 37 teams (33 for women) who receive at-large bids. Though each conference receives only one automatic bid, the selection committee can select any number of at-large teams from each conference. The at-large teams generally come from college basketball's top conferences, including the ACC, Atlantic-10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mountain West, Pac-12, and SEC. Many of these at-large teams, however, are "on the bubble," meaning their chances of gaining a tournament berth are borderline, and they will not know if they have gained entry until they see their name during the Selection Sunday bracket announcements.

A number of teams essentially know that they are assured of an at-large berth no matter their performance in their conference tournament. Most teams in the Top 25 in the national polls or RPI are essentially guaranteed at-large berths even if they do not win their respective conference tournament.

However, teams that have been ranked heading into Selection Sunday, but didn't win their conference tournament, have been left out (or "snubbed") by the selection committee despite what the polls and pundits may say. The Missouri Valley Conference has received the most snubs (5 RPI top 40 teams excluded), with Missouri State left out each of the last 9 years, despite RPI's of 21, 34, and 36). Another famous snub was in 2004, when Utah State completed the regular season with a record of 25-2 but was snubbed after losing in its conference tournament, even though it was ranked in the polls at the time.

Selection Sunday this year in March 16.