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Basketball committees offer more access to selection materials

By Greg Johnson

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees continue to lift the curtain on the selection, seeding and bracketing process this season by providing public access to more of the materials those groups use to administer their championships.

The information, including the actual Rating Percentage Index, the “nitty-gritty reports” and team sheets that the committees reference each March when constructing the bracket, will be displayed on NCAA.org under the Rating Percentage Index tab. There, visitors can track team listings and a variety of additional information in the official NCAA RPI on a weekly basis. The first men’s and women’s RPI were released today.

The public will now be able to view the “nitty-gritty report,” which contains in-depth team information about strength of schedule and performance against teams in the top 50 and records both at home and on the road.

“The bottom line is that the more we can do to enhance and further inform that discussion and debate through transparency, the more you can have thorough discussion,” said Division I Men’s Basketball chair Jeff Hathaway. “When the field is announced, everybody will have had the opportunity throughout the regular season to go back and look at the information, just as if they were sitting on the committee.”

The RPI is just one of the tools both committees use to select, seed and bracket the Division I basketball championships.

The RPI first was used in 1981 to provide supplemental data for the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.  The Division I Women’s Basketball Committee began using the RPI in 1984 and the Division I Baseball Committee began using the tool in 1988.

Other Division I sports committees now using the RPI are men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s volleyball, field hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, and women’s water polo.

All of the committees continue to remind fans and media that the RPI isn’t the only criterion at their disposal.

“At the end of the day, it is still 10 individuals who have different views in how they collect the information,” said Greg Christopher, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and director of athletics at Bowling Green. “If everyone can understand and see what that information is, it helps with the credibility of the decision-making.”

Committee members may prioritize criteria differently. The merits of teams are thoroughly discussed and then votes are taken to decide selection and seeding of the tournament field.

Since 2006, the men’s and women’s basketball committees have conducted mock selections, seeding and bracketing exercises with media, college basketball coaches, campus and conference administrators, television network executives and on-air talent to illuminate the process.

Both Christopher and Hathaway like that the fans and media will have the same information they have at their disposal.

“With the mocks, people saw that you are trying to slide a piece of paper at times between different programs that are vying for those last slots into the tournament,” Christopher said. “You hear phrases from the coaches and media like, ‘I had no idea of the complexity of the process or what goes into this.’ ”

Hathaway added: “Our work isn’t simply based on numerical information. If it was, anyone could just put it in a computer and look at the results. Committee members are watching hundreds of games on television and in person throughout the season. Any committee member past or present will tell you the value of the eyeball test is a key part of the evaluation process.”