Receiving an At-Large Bid to NCAA's

How does the Selection Committee work? What factors into their selections? How has it worked in the past? We take a look at the Selection Committee's criteria and how it pertains to the 2002-03 WCC Champion Gonzaga Bulldogs.


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While we sit and wait until late Sunday afternoon (3:00pm PST), we can consider what will be going through the minds of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee members. RPI Guru Jerry Palm has formulated a list of the things that are considered by the Committee in deciding at-large bids to the tournament. The list is set forth below; where appropriate, I've added comments relevant to the GU situation. It's a mixed bag for the Zags.

1. Conference standings. Only five times has the selection committee skipped over one team in the conference (or division, if the conference is split) standings to give an at-large bid to another, and the last time that happened was in 1998. [Gonzaga won the WCC title by two games with a 12-2 conference record.]

2. High RPI rating. Highest rated, eligible team left out: #33 Oklahoma in 1994. Lowest rated team to receive at-large bid: #74 New Mexico in 1999. Next lowest: #66 Minnesota in 1995. The RPI gets teams considered, but no team gets in on RPI alone. [As of this morning, Gonzaga's RPI stands at #41; it may improve if Kentucky, Indiana, Utah, and Tulsa do well in their conference tournaments. Pepperdine received an at large bid with a #49 RPI last year and a #52 RPI in 2000; Santa Clara received an at large bid in 1996 with a #52 RPI.]

3. Coaches ratings. One coach from each conference, selected by the NABC, votes for the top 15 teams in his region (East, Midwest, South and West). Those aggregate votes are provided to the committee for consideration. This information is not made available to the public. [This is somewhat of a mystery factor. No one seems to know if the coach who is selected to do this by the NABC is the same coach that votes in the coach's poll. If it is, then Dick Davey is the coach from the WCC.]

4. Good conference record. Nine teams have gotten in with a conference record under .500. In fact, two each in 1994 and 1998. That means 32-33 of the at-large teams are .500 or better in conference. [Gonzaga's conference record was 12-2; 13-3 if you include the two tourney games.]

5. Good finish to season. This is measured by the committee as record in last 10 games. [GU was 7-3 in last 10 games. Not a bad number, but two of the losses were to teams with poor RPI ratings.]

6. Good road record. No one plays home games in the tournament. [Gonzaga has an excellent 10-2 road record and respectable 4-4 record on neutral sites].

7. Tough non-conference schedule. Bonus built in to secret RPI adjustments for playing half your non-conference games against teams in the top 50 of the RPI. Also, penalty built in to secret RPI adjustments for playing half your non-conference games against teams in the bottom half of the RPI. [6 of GU's 15 non-conference games were against teams in the top 50 of the RPI-good, but not good enough to get the secret bonus; no penalty because only 5 non-conference opponents were in the bottom half of the RPI.]

8. Wins over teams in the top 50. Another bonus. Losses to teams in the bottom half or to non-division I opponents incur a penalty. [Bonus for the win against #17 Utah; penalties for the losses to LMU and Portland].

9. Injuries and suspensions to players. If a key player misses a few games because of an injury or suspension, that is taken into consideration by the committee, as long as that player is expected to play in the tournament. However, if a player is lost for the year, a team may have to re-prove itself to some degree. [Richard Fox, who had been a starter, missed the Portland loss because of his finger injury; key contributor Cory Violette missed the WCC championship game loss to USD because of an ankle injury.]

10. Conference RPI Ratings. They are calculated and in the room, so they must matter somehow, but I don't know how they're used. Conferences don't get bids, teams do, so they're not used for determining any concept of how many teams a conference "deserves." [The WCC was the #10 RPI conference this year, the highest it has ever been.]

Tune in CBS on Sunday, March 16, at 3:00pm to see what transpires.


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