Get your dancing shoes out! We’re closing in on the 2010 edition of The Big Dance. The field of 65 is set and the opening weekend of games is just around the corner. As seems to be the case every year, the selection process left several competitive teams dreaming of dancing. Then there’s the whole matter of seeing the field. You know all this though. Let’s go to the source and hear from Dan Guerrero, the chair of this year’s NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
Guerrero, better known as the athletic director at UCLA, joined Mike Francesca on WFAN in New York to talk about Kansas’s tough road through the Midwest Region as the #1 overall seed, whether or not he agrees the popular sentiment that Kansas got a raw deal with their draw as the top team in the tournament, whether it’s tougher for the committee to select the teams or to seed them, why Villanova was rewarded with a #2 seed despite struggling down the stretch, his thoughts on expanding the field in the future, how the committee uses both quantitative and qualitative information when making their determinations, and why he doesn’t think a slew of upsets means that the committee hasn’t done its job.
On if he agrees with the popular sentiment that Kansas drew the toughest draw in the stacked Midwest region despite being named the #1 overall seed in the field:
“Sometimes you never know how it’s going to play out. On the surface, someone can look at those teams and say ‘you know what? It’s really loaded.’ But until you play those games, it’s a crapshoot in so many ways. Every team has an opportunity to make their story and to do something special. I don’t necessarily think one region is stronger than another, because every team in the field is obviously quality teams.”
On if it’s tougher on the committee to select the teams or to seed the field:
It’s always selection, and this year was particularly difficult because there were so many teams that were on the board for us. You know, going into the process I had stated on behalf of the committee that this might be the most difficult year from that regard. Lots of parity around the country, there was really a flat field in many respects, and when we got down to having to make those selections, it’s grueling because those kids who have worked hard all year long with their coaches, the fans that want to see their team in the Tournament, it’s a very important decision to make sure that we get it right. So we took a lot of time evaluating all those teams and making those final choices. And in the end of course, some really good teams didn’t make the field.”
On rewarding Villanova with a #2 seed when the Wildcats struggled down the stretch and lost five of their final seven games:
“Well a slump is relative. Sure they lost those games, but when you drill down and see who they lost to and the margin of loss and things of that nature, they lost to some pretty darn good teams – some teams that are rated really highly in the field. Yeah they didn’t win those games, there’s no question about that. A win is a win, a loss is a loss, but when you look at Villanova’s entire season, we didn’t feel it would do them justice to just ding them on how they did down the stretch. They had a great season and we felt they deserved a spot on the #2 line.”
On if the selection process is strictly quantitative or if they seek out people with ‘basketball knowledge’ when making their determinations:
“Well it’s obviously a little bit of both. We have all the quantitative information that you could possibly imagine on any team. The NCAA provides us really with all the tools that we need to be able to assess one team versus another in a quantitative fashion. But that’s just part of it as you know Mike. We go out and watch a lot of games, both personally and we have every piece of technology available to us to watch games throughout the country. We have games sent to us by various conferences, teams, and we TiVo four or five games a night from November until the time we come to Indianapolis. And we also communicate with a lot of great basketball people throughout the country whether it’s coaches who are involved right now as coaches, we have 31 members of a regional advisory committee that’s comprised of current head coaches. We do that as a result of our relationship with the NABC – the National Association of Basketball Coaches. So they’re proving input, we’re talking to the legends of the game all the time, and of course, our own basketball knowledge comes into play. All of us have been in this business for 20, 25 years, so we’ve been around a lot of gymnasiums and seen a lot of film of our coaches over the years.”
On if the committee feels they’ve not done their job well if a region is littered with multiple upsets:
“No, you never know what’s going to happen with those match-ups, and once again, it’s all about match-ups. You could have a 13 that matches up very well with their opponent, and that’s the beauty of this thing. Everything is unpredictable, every school that is involved in the Tournament has the opportunity to make their own magic and to tell a great story. We’ve seen it in the past, and we watch all the time when they do the highlights of previous NCAA Championships – when you see the upsets occur, the last second shots, it’s beautiful and why it’s one of the world’s greatest sporting events.”