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NCAA Mock Selection Recap: Part I: Prelude to Arrival
NCAA Mock Selection Recap: Part I: Prelude to Arrival
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
NCAA Mock Selection Recap: Part I: Prelude to Arrival

March Madness is big business, but the business of choosing the NCAA men’s basketball tourney bracket is even bigger. What transpires in the week leading up to Selection Sunday by NCAA bracket crunchers ultimately sets the table for the most exciting month in sports programming all season. CBS and Turner Broadcasting think so too, trading $10.8 billion in 2011 for exclusive television/Internet rights through 2024.

The Field of 68 is as polarizing as any product in competitive athletics, scrutinized by both well-respected journalists and anonymous Internet windbags certain of their bracketing superiority. With so much cabbage changing hands, the NCAA works exceedingly hard to make the system as transparent as possible. To do that, the Tournament Committee invites selected members of the media to take part in a dry run every year to demystify the coursework and disarm the critics. It’s called the NCAA Mock Selection Process (MSP) and we were fortunate to receive an invitation. While other bracketology simulations conducted elsewhere throughout the season attempt to mimic the chaos, this was a unique opportunity to test-drive the real McCoy and see how the sausage is made. Conducted Feb. 12th and 13th in a “war room” at the NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis, we helped pick, seed, and bracket the Field of 68 using the exact same tools and software used by the NCAA Selection Committee.

One of just 20 members of the national media asked to participate, no formal explanation was provided to explain the NCAA’s wisdom of inviting UDPride to Indianapolis. We work with NCAA reps from the Selection Committee as well as NCAA Statistics throughout the season to ensure the accuracy of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which is why our published computations are not only exceedingly accurate – but also sanity-checked by the NCAA to help the NCAA audit their own RPI for errors or omissions. We are one of just a handful of trusted sources the NCAA reaches out to when there are discrepancies that ask for further scrutiny. For these reasons, we think it’s fair to say our attention to detail and strong comprehension of the NCAA’s key computer rating formula – both its strengths and weaknesses – were considered valuable resources that would add something to the Mock Selection.

We didn’t hesitate to confirm our RSVP.

The wheels of the NCAA Mock Selection process were put in motion several weeks prior to the event. Participants were forwarded a stack of materials explaining general protocols of the event as well as an initial ballot to fill out and bring upon arrival. The ballot was nothing more than an informal springboard tool to get the process off to a running start upon arrival at NCAA Headquarters.

The ballot asked MSP participants to place teams of our choosing into one of three categories:

  1. Teams we believe should be considered for “Lock” status.
  2. Teams we believe should be considered for “Under Consideration” status as possible at-large teams.
  3. Teams we believe should be considered for “Automatic Qualifier” status as league tourney favorites.

Locks were considered teams that had already done more than enough to receive an at-large tournament berth and are candidates for fast-tracking into the bracket. Those deemed Under Consideration were teams with resumes’ short of overwhelming support but good enough to warrant further discussion for possible inclusion into the field. In most cases, MSP participants were exceedingly generous when selecting teams for Under Consideration and stuffed their pre-arrival ballots with far more possible tournament teams than spots available. This ensured any team with the slightest hint of a quality resume’ would make it into the war room and force a discussion. Teams selected for “AQ” status were usually from one-bid leagues where the best team had to also win the conference tournament to reach the NCAA tournament – with a couple exceptions we’ll get to later.

All MSP participants were paired up with one other member of the media to form 10 pairs of teams – each pair representing an actual member of the NCAA Selection Committee. This was done to open up the process to more journalists, but more importantly expedite the learning curve of the NCAA’s computer software by tag-teaming it with a media buddy. We were paired with Jim Sukup of RPIRatings.com, a welcomed partner because we shared a common language and understanding of the computer rating system so integral to the selection process. The two of us represented Janet Cone’s seat, Athletic Director at UNC-Ashville.

Each MSP pair was also assigned three or four conferences to focus on that would bring additional insight and expertise to the room and help divvy up the massive workload of evaluating up to 100 tournament-worthy teams and over 30 leagues. Attempting to pair familiar leagues with specific participants, the NCAA assigned us the A10, Southern Conference, and Ivy League. To further divide the work prior to arrival, Jim took the SoCon and Ivy League while we focused on the A10. Together, we discussed the workload and shared our prep notes prior to arriving in Indianapolis.

Other members of the media taking part included:
  • Stewart Mandel (FoxSports) representing NCAA Committee Chairperson Scott Barns (Utah State)
  • Mike Lopresti (NCAA.com) and Cory Dawson (IUPUI), representing Peter Roby (AD at Northeastern) Assignment: American Athletic, MAC, Mountain West, SWAC
  • Tim Krueger (Bluejay Banter) and Will Haskett (Horizon League Network), representing Judy MacLeod (C-USA Associate Commissioner). Assignment: Big 12, Big East, Big South, Colonial.
  • Teddy Greenstein (Chicago Tribune) and Kerry Miller (Bleacher Report), representing Bernard Muir (AD at Stanford). Assignment: Metro Atlantic, Southland, West Coast.
  • Josh Newman (Asbury Park Press) and Jamal Murphy (College Hoops Daily), representing Tom Holmoe (AD at BYU). Assignment: Big Sky, Conference USA, MEAC, Missouri Valley.
  • Jason Lisk (The Big Lead) and Scott Rabalais (Baton Rouge Advocate), representing Joe Alleva (AD at LSU). Assignment: Big 10, Ohio Valley, Patriot League, WAC.
  • Joe Rexrode (Detroit Free Press) and Jason Anderson (ESPN 680/Louisville), representing Mark Hollis (AD at Michigan State). Assignment: America East, ACC, Northeast.
  • Mike Tirico (ESPN) and George Schroeder (USA Today), representing Bruce Rasmussen (AD at Creighton). Assignment: Big West, Horizon, SEC, Summit.
  • Brian Hamilton (Sports Illustrated) and Vahe Gregorian (Kansas City Star), representing Joe Castiglione (AD at Oklahoma). Assignment: Atlantic Sun, Pac-12, Sun Belt.
We were still unsure how the event would treat our presence when the Dayton Flyers came were up for discussion in the war room. It was no secret that we covered UD Athletics to either the NCAA Committee or other MSP participants. Would we be allowed to comment on Dayton during the discussion phase, but forced to leave the room when votes were taken? Would we be allowed to discuss Dayton at all? Those and many other questions would eventually get answered over the two-day exercise.

Beyond the homework given by the NCAA to prep for, additional time was spent creating our own checklist of things we hoped to learn from our participation. Selection Sunday is many things, but controversial is near the top of the list. It’s been labeled everything from downright incompetent to back-scratching Good Ol’ Boys tossing bones to the cash cows of college basketball. Representing a perspective outside the Power-5 conferences, we couldn’t wait to see if the slots were rigged like Vegas at the expense of the non-whales – or if the same people claiming closed-door shenanigans are also the ones with attic photos of Bigfoot.

We knew this much: the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is made up of people and even though Deep Blue is in the room to help with computation, the process still requires a human hand on the flight stick to make the tough calls. It was our job to observe, participate, and draw conclusions based on what we saw and not assumed.

Coming Tuesday:
Part II: How the Sausage is Made

Hot shooting hides a multitude of sins.
Make everyone else's "one day" your "day one".
Attached Files
File Type: pdf 2015 Composite Ballot.pdf (81.7 KB, 27 views)

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By CraSch on 02-16-2015, 03:36 PM
First, Chris, congratulations on the invite. Maybe no formal explanation was given, but I would consider this a great complement that they respect what you do. Not just for hosting and monitoring a message board for a specific fan base (plenty of those), but all the extras you add to this site, such as your extremely accurate RPI. These extras (along with us awesome fans/posters, ha) are what make this site special above and beyond the normal message board.

As for all of us posters, when discussing the RPI, this is a great example of why you should be using the UDPride RPI and not worry about RPI's from other sites. This from Chris's report says it all when it comes to his UDPride RPI: "We work with NCAA reps from the Selection Committee as well as NCAA Statistics throughout the season to ensure the accuracy of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which is why our published computations are not only exceedingly accurate – but also sanity-checked by the NCAA to help the NCAA audit their own RPI for errors or omissions. We are one of just a handful of trusted sources the NCAA reaches out to when there are discrepancies that ask for further scrutiny." Simply put, the NCAA trusts Chris's RPI, which is very impressive and a huge complement to his dedication to detail and accuracy.

Thank you Chris for continuing to run this great site.
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By AC91 on 02-17-2015, 08:42 AM
Thanks and congrats again, Chris! Can't wait to read about the rest.
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