|NCAA tournament selection committee faces long weekend of decisions|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 12 March 2008 11:17|
They'd be better off focusing on winning games.
On Wednesday, selection committee chairman Tom O'Connor reiterated one of the panel's founding principles: Results count more than words when choosing the 65-team field.
``It really doesn't bother us or have any effect,'' O'Connor said in a conference call. ``A loss is a loss and a win is a win.''
It sounds simple, but, of course, it never is.
Committee members will spend the next four days locked down inside an Indianapolis hotel debating the merits of good wins, bad losses, records over the past 12 games, mathematical ratings, even such mundane topics as injuries, suspensions and scheduling to pick the 34 at-large teams.
If members wonder how one team stacks up against another, they can always opt for detailed computer analyses from NCAA officials. The campaigning, they say, will be ignored.
By Sunday evening, O'Connor will reveal the brackets that define March's biggest sporting event. Regardless of the outcome, the committee will likely draw criticism from coast to coast.
With so much at stake this week, the hardline efforts have already begun.
Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen said he has spoken with committee members two or three times to make the case that his conference deserves at least five at-large bids. He claims nine teams should be considered for the tourney. The Big East set the conference record when eight teams made the 2006 field.
At Kentucky, where NCAA bids are expected and Final Four runs are the measuring stick for success, Wildcats fans are hoping a strong finish will convince the committee that their team is worthy of a bid despite losing freshman Patrick Patterson to a season-ending stress fracture in his left ankle.
But with the SEC tournament remaining, nothing's certain.
``We really look at all the teams as independents, and when you do your initial ballot they're all listed alphabetically,'' O'Connor said. ``We know who they've played in the conference but that's basically it. The conference really does not play a role in our selection.''
Philadelphia - once known as the epicenter of college basketball with its Big 5 schools - could be shut out for the first time since 1977, although Villanova certainly helped its case Wednesday with an 82-63 victory over Syracuse in the Big East tourney.
Many considered it an elimination game, meaning Syracuse could miss the NCAAs for the second straight year.
Then there are all those other hopefuls waiting anxiously. Take the case of Virginia Commonwealth (24-7), the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champ but an upset loser in the conference tournament.
O'Connor, athletic director at fellow Colonial member and tourney champion George Mason, and his committee will debate whether the Rams did enough to earn one of the precious at-large bids.
``The challenge for the committee, as I've said all along, is to select the best 34 teams to compete for the national championship,'' O'Connor said. ``We're clearly in the stretch run right now and yet many variables are left in terms of conference tournaments.''
Some believe they can help their cause by lobbying.
``We're in constant communication with the NCAA men's basketball committee to provide them with information on our teams and letting them know who's injured and who will return in time for the tournament,'' Pac-10 men's basketball representative Dave Hirsch said recently. ``We let them know why guys are missing games. We don't want to overwhelm them or give them false hopes either.''
While O'Connor insists his committee considers all available information, it will not listen to the pleas, positions or public posturing of coaches or conference officials. In fact, there will be no televisions in the main debate room.
Instead, the 10-member committee will use its reliable old methods, and ignore everything else.
``There's a tremendous amount of ethics and trust in our room,'' O'Connor said. ``It really is about what is said in this room.''
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.