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NCAA March Madness: Filling the Division I Basketball Brackets

Behind the Blue Disk


How about a quick overview of the process?

The Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball championships each have 10-person selection committees responsible for overseeing all aspects of their events. The committees select and seed the teams by secret ballot before building the brackets. All three tasks are done according to established principles and procedures.

What teams make up the field?

The field is divided into automatic qualifiers (AQs) and at-large teams. Both championships have 31 AQs that play their way into the NCAA field by winning their conference regular-season or conference tournament championship. The committees select the at-large teams.

Are selection, seeding and bracketing the same for the men and women?

There are a few minor differences in the principles and procedures. The most obvious difference is the men’s championship features 68 teams compared to 64 on the women’s side.

Who’s on the committees?

School and conference administrators are nominated by their conference, serve five-year terms and represent a cross-section of the Division I membership.

How do the committees prepare for selection weekend?

Committee members spend countless hours evaluating teams during the regular season. They are expected to be experts on the teams within their assigned regions while maintaining a broad-based knowledge of Division I basketball.

How fair is the process for selecting the at-large teams?

The committee’s goal is to treat every team fairly in producing the brackets. The established principles and procedures themselves go a long way toward ensuring impartiality. For example, conference representatives cannot be in the room when teams from their conference are being discussed for inclusion, let alone being allowed to vote for them.

What is the most important factor for being selected?

No single factor guarantees selection. It is up to the committee members to determine if the at-large teams have played their way into the tournaments.

What is the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), and how important is it to the process?

The basic RPI consists of a team’s Division I winning percentage (25 percent weight), its opponents’ winning percentage (50 percent weight) and its opponents opponents’ winning percentage (25 percent weight). The RPI is one of many factors the committees use for selecting and seeding teams.

How do the committees handle key injuries, unavailable players or unique circumstances that occur during the regular season?

Committee members evaluate teams based on outcomes of games played with and without missing player(s) or under any unique circumstances. Ultimately, if the committees as a whole feel the impacted teams merit inclusion, the teams are selected, seeded and placed in the brackets.

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