Committee Secrets Revealed by Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley is an ESPN broadcaster who was one of 20 media types to be invited by the NCAA to attend a Selection committee workshop held at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. I thought you might enjoy learning about what the NCAA Selection Committee is doing right now during the final stages of the selection process. Here is an excerpt from my interview.

DOS: I am here with Mike Kelley, former star at Milw Pius, the Univ of Wisconsin and now a college basketball analyst on TV. Mike, thanks for joining us at MU

Mike: Thank you. Good to be here.


DOS: Mike, what networks do you work on? I have seen you off and on this year, tell us about your broadcasting career.

Mike: This is my sixth year doing it. Right out of college I started covering mostly Wisconsin games and then I sort of branched off to other Big Ten teams around the conference and then with the start of the Big Ten Network there was a choice that had to be made between ESPN regional television or the Big Ten Network. I wanted to do the Big Ten Network, but also had to make a smart economic decision and ESPN, who I had been with for five years, made a substantially better offer so I went with them and now I cover Big Ten as well as Big East and Missouri Valley and various other conferences that you'll see me on throughout regional television, ESPN U or ESPN 2.

DOS: Mike, I heard on the radio about a month ago, you were on one of the local stations here in Milwaukee, and you had told a real interesting tale about how ESPN announcers had been invited by the NCAA to a one day NCAA selection meeting seminar where you could get the background information. Tell us a little bit about what the purpose of that meeting was.

Mike: They selected 20 media members from across the country. It was ESPN, CBS and FOX Sports. They all had different members there I believe. Maybe some others that I'm not remembering, but the purpose of it from the NCAA standpoint was to clear the air from many myths about the selection process. It's such a big important event for the NCAA that what they didn't want was people judging the process or talking about the process without full knowledge of what goes on.

They said criticism is fine but criticism not based on facts is what they were trying to avoid. So, by opening the doors and having a totally transparent process, they thought they could help. And it was a very educational experience that probably was once in a lifetime. I was sitting next to Pete Gillan and Clark Kellogg and Joe Lunardi were all within three feet of me, either to my left or to my right, so it was a very neat experience to go through.

DOS: What surprised you at the meeting? What were some facts that jumped out at you?

Mike: What they do in six days we tried to reproduce in 14 hours, so it as very fast obviously for us to try and do it, but one of the main things I took away from it was how thorough the process was. It's a very technologically advanced process. There is a computer screen in front of each committee member. Behind that there are three computer screens piled and these are big, like 22" computer screens, piled next to each other. There are various NCAA staff in the room listening to the conversation about certain teams and as they hear you talking about them, they'll pull them up on the big board or on the computer screen in front of you and you can have the supporting documentation as you try and debate back and forth the merits of a certain team being in or out or who should be seeded higher.

I love that show "24 " and while you're in that room, you feel a little bit like you're inside CTU and they've got all these great computers and great knowledge at your disposal, so that was probably one of the biggest things I took away is that this is big time. They did not mess around and this is not like the old days where they just probably wrote down names on a paper.

DOS: The process, they try to select, actually 65 teams with a play-in, but 31 of them are already locked up with conference winners, so really what you're doing is you're picking 34 at large. Is that correct?

Mike: Actually, there are 31 automatic bids that will be given out and 34 at large to make your 65. So, yeah, that is correct, and then you start off with the mentality of we have to pick the top 34 at large teams in the country and then throughout the week for them or for us, what was 14 hours for us, they simulated that experience of conference tournaments and say a Marquette or Wisconsin winning their tournament was already in that field of 34 best teams, so then they get pulled out and then you have to slide another team in to that 34 best. So, that's the process.

Do you want me to get into how it goes to? The first step in the process. They try to break the entire process into three steps.

#1 is selection, which teams should be in this tournament, how do we set the field of 65?

#2 The seeding. How do we determine who is the best team down and who is the 65th best team?

#3 is bracketing. We've got to put them in and figure out where they are going to play.

So, with that said, selection is the first thing you need to do. So, they go around the room and all ten members of the committee will submit online so you don't have to worry about peer pressure, you pick out, you screen the teams that you say there is no debate, these teams are in the tournament, to argue this point would be insane. So, each person does that independently. They all submit their teams. Now for you that could be 25 teams that you think these teams are guaranteed. They should be in. And for me, it might be 18 and then as you go around, of all ten people, whatever teams were unanimous selections, and whatever that number may be, those teams get automatically set aside and officially they are in the tournament.

So, that could happen, like today is Thursday[March 13th], so that probably has already happened. They probably already have a field of 20 teams that nobody what, they're in. They're not seated, they're not bracketed, but they're in. And then once that process is done, then they take a look at the teams that weren't unanimous, that not all ten people voted for. If you've got two votes among the ten, you're also then put into a separate group – a group that is not in necessarily but also needs to be considered for entrance into the tournament. Now when we did that process, there were 22 teams that were guaranteed in. There were 22 teams that everybody agreed upon. Yes, they're in. You didn't have to pick 34. But either way, we had 22 that everybody agreed upon and then we had a list of 60 teams that at least two people of the ten agreed should be in but not all ten. Does that make sense?

DOS: Yes, it does. It sounds like brain surgery only ten times more important. I thought it was 15 guys hold up in a hotel room with pizza and soda.

Mike: So now that 60 teams of ours, now what they also do, once you have that field set, they look at it and say there was a team that only one person picked, we look up on the screen at all 60 teams and say, alright, if one of your teams isn't on there and you think they should be up for consideration, make the case now because if you don't make it now, they are never going to be thought of.

Well, we had 60 teams and we already had 22 in, so obviously we got a big number to deal with so nobody argued for that. Then they also put up 9 teams that won their regular season outright that aren't on that list. So, let's say like a MAAC, they would put Siena on the board, so there were actually teams that they then threw in addition to that up there. We looked at all nine and nobody agreed that they should be in, so we actually took them off the top, so then we were back to 60 again. And then once you have the 60, you actually start this process of shaving layers. Each of the ten members, for us by the way I said 20 at the beginning, that's because we had two people representing one member, so you can insert that back where I probably should have stated that earlier.

But anyway, so each of the ten people then takes eight teams, they say they want you to pick the eight best of the 60. All ten guys pick their eight best and those eight are organized into the eight most votes. It may not be the same for everybody. The eight teams with the most votes are then put in front of you and you have to rank them 1 through 8. The top four vote getters of those eight teams then go into the field along with the original 22 that you already had.

[Part 2 of this article is Tomorrow.]

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