"Overall, the parity trend continues, and there's a real lack of differentiation among different teams," Walters said as he described the biggest challenge facing this year's selection committee. "It makes picks more difficult. Because of that conference tournaments could take on increasing significance this year. A team could either burnish or bruise its reputation this year in their league tournaments.
"The unbalanced schedules and the divisional alignments many conferences now have complicate the process," Walters continued. "Two teams in the same league might have the same record, but that could disguise significant differences. We will have to eyeball that pretty closely."
Simply put, it means that the committee will likely have to delve deeper than ever into which teams played which opponents, and when, and where, than ever before. There are razor thin margins that separate a number of candidates for this year's at-large field, and trying to pick the most deserving group will require days of analysis, which is already underway, although the committee doesn't meet in Indianapolis for another three weeks.
"In my role as chair I am glued to the TV set, as other committee members have been," Walters said. On Saturday I watched 12 games, on Sunday I watched five games, and on Monday I watched four or five games. That's the kind of commitment we are making at this point.
"In past years, we might have been trying to put four or five teams into the last two spots. This year, we might be trying to shoehorn ten teams into the last four spots. There is just lots of bunching in the middle of conferences. Hopefully, there will be some separation as this month goes on. If not, the conference tournaments will help us discern what to do."
Walters also attempted to dispel several commonly held beliefs concerning the selection process, including:
RPI: "As I have stated over and over, and has everyone in the past, the RPI is a tool, a useful tool, but not the only tool. It is a general indicator of relative strength. It is not a precise indicator of absolute strength."