Comstock, the athletic director for American University in Washington, D.C., is the head of the Selection Committee, which will announce its decisions next Monday, March 13. On Tuesday afternoon, she answered reporters' questions from all quadrants of the country as everyone tried to read the proverbial tealeaves and flush out the No. 1 seeds.
North Carolina would appear to be a lock for the No. 1 seed overall after its performance over the course of the season and its triumph in the ACC Tournament. Duke and LSU also are heavily favored to get No. 1 nods, despite the fact both teams lost in their conference tournaments – Duke in the semifinals to Maryland and LSU in the final to Tennessee.
Tennessee has to like its chances better after winning the SEC Tournament crown on Sunday with a 63-62 victory over LSU, but regular season losses to Kentucky and Florida hurt the Lady Vols in the "body of work" criterion.
"It will be the team's performance over the entire season," Comstock said, in an answer that didn't vary whether or not she was asked about Rutgers' loss in the Big East Tournament – "All the committee members were watching that game. … We will take that game and it will be considered as a total within the system." – or Tennessee's win in its postseason conference showdown.
The "body of work" standard would hold without tipping the scales in a team's favor that won its conference tourney vs. the regular season performance, said Comstock, whose resume includes administrative stints at UNC-Asheville, Purdue, Illinois and Lincoln College (Illinois), before taking the job at American, which plays in the Patriot League.
One factor that will be "looked at very closely," is head-to-head competition, Comstock said. For Tennessee that would be in its favor if compared to Maryland, would have no effect vs. LSU since the teams split and would hurt vs. Duke.
The committee's first task is to pick the at-large teams after the automatic bids are in by virtue of winning conference tournaments. After all 64 teams have been selected the committee will organize them by seeds and then give preference to higher seeds vs. lower seeds in terms of geographic location.
Picking the No. 1 seeds could prove to be harder than any tournament in recent memory.
"I think it's going to be a challenge," said Comstock, who said the process was "more definitive" in past years.
Comstock is joined on the 10-member committee by: Jaclyn E. Silar, associate athletics director, Duke University, ACC; Lisa Parker, associate athletics director, Boise State University, Western Athletic Conference; Judy Southard, associate athletics director, Louisiana State University, SEC, will be next year's selection chair; Barbara Burke, senior associate athletics director, University of Wyoming; Jane Meyer, University of Iowa, senior associate athletics director, Big Ten Conference; Marie T. Tuite, University of Washington, senior associate athletic director, PAC-10; Cindy Hartmann, University of Dayton, associate athletic director, Atlantic-10 Conference; Sandra Booker, Bethune-Cookman College, assistant athletic director for academics, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; and Tina Cheatham, associate commissioner, Southland Conference.
According to the NCAA, the committee's general principles are:
"At no point in the process shall a member vote for a team that the individual represents as an institutional or conference administrator.
"A member shall not be present in the meeting room during committee discussion regarding the selection or seeding of a team the individual represents. Nor may an individual answer questions about the team the individual represents, except for factual questions (e.g., dates of injuries, status of injured players).
"A conference administrator is permitted to answer general questions about teams in the conference the individual represents; however, this committee member must leave the room during any discussion regarding the selection or seeding of teams the individual represents.
"An athletics administrator is permitted to discuss other teams in the individual's conference only when asked.
"At any time during the process of selecting the at-large teams, the committee may elect to begin seeding the teams. This will permit the committee to move ahead and still consider the results of games played during selection weekend.
"At any time during the process, the chair may designate a ‘quiet period,' generally 15 minutes in length, to permit members to individually reflect on the way they will vote. These periods may be (a) prior to finalizing the vote on teams eligible for the last remaining at-large positions; (b) prior to the start of the seeding process, and (c) prior to the start of the bracketing process.
"All votes will be by secret ballot.
"At any time during the process, the chair may request a ‘nitty-gritty' report, which compares teams that are under consideration. The elements of the ‘nitty-gritty' report are:
"Division I record; Overall RPI; Non-conference record; Non-conference RPI; Conference record; Conference RPI; Road record; Record in last 10 games; Record against teams ranked 1-25 by RPI; Record against teams ranked 26-50 by RPI; Record against teams ranked 51-100 by RPI; Record against teams ranked 101-200 by RPI; Record against teams ranked below 200 by RPI; Record against other teams that are under consideration (i.e., ‘board teams')."
At the conclusion of the SEC Tournament, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt made it clear she thought the Lady Vols and LSU deserved No. 1 seeds. UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood made his case outside the Lady Vols locker room.
"As far as what it means (to win the tournament) I don't know the full implications, but I do know this. We have to be considered for a No. 1 seed," Lockwood said. "Prior to this game I don't know if we were on the table for a one seed. Now will we get it? Don't know. The powers that be will make that choice. But I know this. When they talk about it our name has to be on the table."