It is almost championship week, which means it is a week away from Selection Sunday when all the NCAA tournament bracket projections are replaced by the real deal.
I have been doing brackets for 35 years, dating back to the early 80’s when my good friend Steve Wieberg of USA Today–he was Stevie Brackets before Joey Brackets was created by ESPN–and I would spend hours on the phone, trying to guess what the NCAA selection committee would do on Sunday.
I also took part in one of the first mock bracket gatherings the NCAA opened to the media, a move made to give a better idea of the process.
Over the years, bracketology has become a cottage industry.
Let’s start with some misconceptions.
First of all, picking the field ISN’T all that difficult. Or, at least picking the 68-team field. Anyone with even casual knowledge of college basketball should be able to fill out a bracket that is 95 percent correct–which is roughly 64 of the 68.
Getting the last four teams right can be tricky because you literally have to get into the selection committee’s minds to determine which selection criteria is most important.
For example, does the committee value numbers, such as wins and losses in conference, margin of victories, schedule strength or the much talked about Ratings Percentage Index as a tie breaker.
But filling the bracket isn’t all that difficult. What is much, much harder is putting together a bracket which is filled with rules and regulations which can cause major angst in not only seeding the teams, but placing them in the proper regions.
Let’s take a look at a few of the rules and the major misconceptions.
MISCONCEPTION: The committee considers conferences when it makes its selections.
No it doesn’t. Each team is regarded individually. Having been part of a mock selection process, I had no idea of how many ACC or Big East or Big Ten schools were part of the tournament until AFTER the field was picked. After the 32 conference tournament champions earn their automatic bids, the selection process for the 36 at large teams is similar to match play. Teams go head to head against each other on the selection board. The only time conferences are considered is in the strength of the opponent’s victories. Perhaps the most important item the committee uses is wins against Top 25, top 50 and Top 100 opponents. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.