TIREY: What really happens in that room?

With all the misconceptions and myths about what happens when the circle of people meet in Indianapolis every year, and decide who will go dancing, we thought Rudy Davalos might be able to clear some things up for us.

Rudy Davalos is the athletic director at the University of New Mexico and has been on the NCAA Mens's Tournament Selection Committee. In other words, he has held the fate of several college basketball teams in the palm of his hand over the years of his tenure on the committee. With all the misconceptions and myths about what happens when the circle of people meet in Indianapolis every year, and decide who will go dancing, we thought Davalos might be able to clear some things up for us.

Davalos is not currently serving the men's committee, as his term has already expired. But he has switched to the women's committee. "My last year [on the men's] was C.M. Newton's last year," said Davalos, when I spoke with him. "We served about five years together. He was a lot of fun. Terry Holland [former Virginia coach] was on it too. So we had some good coaches and people that were very knowledgeable. I'll always remember, if we got into a situation with a team on seeding…or even when getting down to the last teams, C.M. would always ask the person who was basically discussing it, he said, ‘OK, who would you rather play if you were coaching…this team or this team?' That was something he always used in his own mind as far as seeding and even the late selection process." So apparently those on the committee grappled with the same things fans did in making their brackets.

Many people think that those on the committee are allowed to lobby for the teams they are affiliated with, or their conferences, or even their particular areas of the country. But that isn't so, according to Davalos. "I think that is a misnomer. I think people think there are a lot of politics, when there really isn't. You're just not comfortable in trying to do that. You're not allowed."

The members of the committee are starting to formulate opinions on teams very early in the season. They waste no time in thinking about a team and its relationship to the tournament even before their non-conference schedule is half completed. "There's more technology, more resources, and everything else for committee members. You know fairly early, you know sometime in December that some teams are going to be there, because they are playing really good basketball. I think, basically, you're starting to formulate your mind as early as December," said Davalos. Even if the members miss a televised game or two of a particular team, the technology is right there in front of them to find all they need to know about a team. Davalos says, "They'll have a computer there for each committee member, and you can just hone right in on certain teams, and certain conferences, and certain games. It's right there at your fingertips."

How does the committee know when they have done a good job? Well, contrary to popular belief, what the committee is looking for is the top seeds to advance. Cinderellas making it through to the later rounds means that they missed something along the way. One year, while Davalos was on the committee, "I think it was one of those situations where we only had like 3 teams out of the [sweet] 16, that weren't one, two, three, and four seeds, which means you did a heck of a job." But that gets increasingly difficult to do, with parity running rampant through the college basketball ranks. "I think it's tougher. I think because of the parity now…it's tougher to pick. It may be easy to pick a number one or two seed, but I think when you start getting down into the fourth seed, there are so many good teams now…that you got to be a little lucky," said Davalos.

So do the conference tournaments actually mean anything, when the committee starts looking at who is in, who is out, and the seeding? Davalos surprised me by saying not as much as you might think. Speaking about teams that are not going to be your top four seeds, Davalos said, "I have always had a philosophy that those teams do not play their way out of the tournament, but there are teams that play their way into the tournament. And I'm talking about in the conference tournaments. If you're strong enough in regular season, and you're pretty much in it, you're not going to hurt yourself by losing in the first round. Where I think it affects you, is not getting into the tournament, but it affects your seeding." Davalos used an example of Kentucky and North Carolina (fictitious situation) fighting for the last number one seed. Kentucky loses in the their first game of the SEC Tourney, and North Carolina advances to the finals of the ACC Tourney. Then the seeding would be affected by their performances. "Anybody that would tell you that doesn't affect the mentality of the committee, is not being true. Because it would have to be close," said Davalos.

Davalos does bleed a little bit of blue. He spent one year as an assistant coach under Adolph Rupp at Kentucky in 1962. He also was an assistant at Georgetown College, just north of Lexington, for one year in 1961. So, with a tad of bluegrass roots, how does he see Kentucky's seed coming down this year? Would he vote for the Wildcats as a number one? Davalos said, "You know, I like Tubby. I would like to see Kentucky in there, because I like Kentucky. But I don't think I could make that call. I haven't been studying [them] that much. I wouldn't say Kentucky deserves a number one seed at this time. But I also wouldn't say that they didn't."


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