NCAA Selection Discussion with Bob Bowlsby

In his monthly sit down chat with Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowslby, Hawkeye Nation's Rob Howe discusses the upcoming NCAA tournament selection process. Bowlsby is the chairman of the selection committee for the next two years, the 'face man' if you will. He will be the man answering questions from Jim Nantz and Billy Packer on Selection Sunday. Bowlsby gives us a little bit of insight into the process, exposes some myths, and much more in this interview provided to would like to thank for allowing us to run this interview with Bob Bowlsby. We did edit out one question specific to Iowa's chances in the Big Ten, if you are interested in the full interview, you can view it here.
What part of the NCAA Tournament selection process are you in?
Well, we're watching lots of games and gathering as much information as we can. We have a proprietary website that committee members and staff can use. It's got a lot of updated information on it every day. You can go in there and get conference standings; and you can get recent results; and you can get the RPI and see how people have done on the road; I mean, lots and lots of information.

It's a time when we're studying and ramping up and beginning to compare teams and looking who is playing well here now that we're in the last month of the season before the (conference) tournaments. And there are a lot of other things that we're getting ready for, just organizationally and administratively. Committee members are getting ready to go out to their sites for the first and second rounds and the regionals. We're scrambling to put together our travel packages.

For me, I've got some more media responsibilities than I had before. I've got a couple of national media calls that we'll do. Then, I've got some other things that are just odds and ends to get ready to go. But basically, it's trying to put together the database that it takes to be able to make the right kinds of relative assessments on selection weekend.

Is there more parity now than in the past? Is it going to be harder this year than in years past?
It feels to me that there are more teams under consideration right now. We kind of work on 105 teams, something in that ballpark. There are some teams right now that aren't in the 105 that we're keeping an eye on. And there are probably some that are in the 105 that will fall out. But it's a long ways from 105 to 65.

So, yeah, I don't know if I'd call it parity or if there are just a lot of crazy things going on. There are a lot of schools with quite a few losses that are really good basketball teams. You think about a UConn. They just got beat again on Sunday. I think that was their sixth loss. Yet, they may be one of the best teams in the country when it's all said and done, especially on any given day.

There are a lot of good basketball teams out there. There are a lot of good mid-majors. Gonzaga is really good, but there are a couple of others in their league that are pretty tough. Southern Illinois, obviously, is really good. But there are a couple of (teams) in the Valley that have lost games...Southwest Missouri and Wichita State...Wichita State may be the most talented team in the Valley. Yet, they've got some losses. The same is true in a lot of other leagues. It seems to me like there are a lot of potential candidates out there.

I don't do it as chair, but each of the other nine committee members have three or four leagues that they have the primary surveillance for. They'll file a report on each of those leagues before we go into selection weekend. And so, the ones that are putting forth the extra effort on a given league is going to be interesting. What we'll see is league reports that say, "These two teams are definitely in, but these other five I think we ought to at least take a look at." When you put all of those together, it could be a pretty big number.

Are all the things that we hear about - the last 10 games, how teams play on the road, RPI - factor into the decision?
Absolutely. We have a lot of information at our disposal, including video of teams and lots of other things. But road games; last 10 games; how they played against the Top 25, the Top 50, the Top 100; Did they have any really good wins?; Did they have any real bad losses?; What was their non-conference schedule like?; Have they had any critical injuries at specific times?; Have their been suspensions?; There's a lot of stuff that we draw upon. I can't imagine an element that's a descriptor of an individual institution that we don't have access to.

It seems that some folks make the assumption that the RPI is the be all to end all. Is that a bad assumption?
Yeah. It's a bad assumption. It's a very commonly held misperception that the RPI is a good tool to discriminate among teams. It has a role. We use it frequently. But where we usually get to at the end of the year is to second place teams out if mid-majors, and we get four or five teams that are fifth- or sixth-place teams out of the high-majors. We've got eight teams in that pool, and we've got three spots left. We need to discriminate among those eight. And you couldn't slide a piece of paper between some of them. At that point, the RPI is not very valuable unless there was one in there that had a 35 RPI and one that had an 87 RPI. But that isn't going to be the case. What you're going to have is a close cluster with a range in the RPI, and it's just not a very good tool for discriminating among those in the pool. There are a lot better discriminators, such as how they play on the road or how they've done in critical games in their league. Who have they beaten outside of their league? Those kinds of things are better discriminates of who gets in and who stays out.

How much does conference record play into the formula?
We certainly look at conference record. There isn't any doubt about that. There isn't a hard or fast rule that you have to be .500 or better in your league. It's something that we look at, but there are a lot of other factors that are more important.

Has the recent success of the mid-majors given the committee more reason to give an extra look at them?
What you've seen happen with the move from 15 to 13 scholarships for the men is a better distribution of talent. To go back to your question about parity, basketball is a sport where one or two guys on a team can really make a difference. The difference between 15 and 13 is that there would have been 22 guys sitting on Big Ten benches or 24 guys sitting on Big 12 benches that are now playing at Western Michigan and Kent State and Southern Illinois and on and on and on. The same thing happened in football when you went from 105 (scholarships) to 95 to 85. There's a better distribution of talent. You can't stockpile like you could before. So, it's legitimate that there are people at all levels that can flat out play. That's all happened over the last seven or eight years.

Without showing your hand all of the way, what is the view of the Big Ten? Many so called experts around the country believe that it's a down year for the conference.
There's a lot of talk about that. I don't want to get into assessing our league or any other league. We really don't spend much time talking about how many get in from what league. In fact, I shouldn't say very much time. We don't spend any time talking about it. It's a matter of Institution A compared to Institutions B and C and D. If that means that a given conference gets four versus six, then that's the way that it is.

I can't ever remember a discussion in a committee meeting where we discussed which league was getting how many. It just isn't something that we look at.

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