Successful weekend for Super 10
Fan committee member takes us through surprising process
Editor's Note: Sharon Waters spent selection weekend serving on the Super 10 Fan Selection Committee. In this story, she gives us her first-person account of what was an interesting, educational and in some cases eye-opening weekend for 10 fans who got the chance to go through the same selection process as the actual committee.
Gathered on couches, we had that sitting-on-the-bubble feeling as the Selection Show got started. We weren’t just wondering how our alma mater or favorite team might fare. Instead, we were curious how closely the real brackets would match the ones we had created over three days in a conference room in Atlanta.
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We are the Super 10, a committee of 10 hoops junkies who believed we could do the brackets as well as the NCAA athletic directors and conference heads who comprise the official NCAA Selection Committee. We won a contest by submitting 30-second videos and arrived at Turner Sports in Atlanta, armed with stats in our head, laptops and iPads, and access to all the information the real committee uses.
The results: We only missed two teams the real committee picked, Iona and California, and we seeded 40 teams exactly right and nailed 62 on or within one line of the real brackets.
“When you can get better than 95 percent tied in, you’re doing something right,” said fellow Super 10 Committee member Charlie Strauzer, 44, of Rye Brook, N.Y. “Given all 10 of us had never met before and being thrown together in a room for, really, a little over 48 hours versus the real committee having almost six days to go through the process and to come up with as high a hit rate as we did is a tremendous testament to the fans’ knowledge of the game.”
Stan Morrison, a veteran of the men’s selection committees 2007-11, provided “inside the room” advice, yet never tried to steer or influence our suggestions. He called the fan committee’s results “outstanding, remarkable quite frankly.”
He was impressed by, “the homework, the diligence and the ability to understand the rules and to peel the onion and get down to what a team is really about and how conversant the committee was about the mid-majors.
“We had people who absolutely knew teams, who knew players, who knew trends and knew some inside stuff,” Morrison said.
The Super 10 committee’s discussions were “very, very similar to the kind of conversations that happen in Indianapolis when sequestered,” Morrison said. “In some cases, the Super 10 committee dug deeper, and that was necessary for teams that do not have a lot of exposure on national television, and I think the Super 10 was right on target in doing that.”
Some fans always grumble about how the real committee picked, but deciding the last four teams in the field is harder than it looks.
“This isn’t brain surgery,” said Morrison, a 30-year Division I coach and former director of athletics at UC-Riverside. “It’s harder.”
Those of us on the committee quickly realized how right Morrison was. On Friday, we ranked the first 34 teams. On Saturday, our first full day, we worked 8 a.m. to nearly 9 p.m., ranking the remaining 34 teams. Sunday, we scrubbed -- or moved -- teams based on results of the previous day’s games, and second thoughts.
Matt Karner, 20, returned to his hotel room at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and did research for two more hours. Then Karner, a St. Louis resident, spent a sleepless night pondering the committee’s rankings from four to eight (the one and two seeds).
“I just wanted to get the full picture to make sure we had it right. And we did end up the next day changing it around a little bit,” Karner, a fan of Michigan State, said.
On Sunday, we bracketed the entire field, with two versions based on the outcome of the Michigan State vs. Ohio State game. Throughout the process, we tweeted with the #Super10 hash tag and posted to Facebook to keep March Madness fans updated on our progress, and to gather their input. Drexel and Iona tweeters were especially avid about lobbying us for a ticket to the dance.
Committee members rattled off stats, remembering more than just the margins of wins and losses. It was common for a member to offer obscure details about a team such as when a player was injured or suspended, coaching changes, or even a final exam schedule that might impact performance.
“I was surprised at how much thought went into every vote you took,” said Graham Doeren, 25, of Lawrence, Kan. and a fan of the Kansas Jayhawks. “Everyone here thought they were a college basketball expert, and then you meet someone who knows more than you do.”
Richmond Spiders fan Colin Casey, 24, enjoyed studying teams from different conferences that would normally not be paired such as Harvard and Miami [Fla.] or Colorado and Drexel. Casey, a Jersey City, N.J., resident was surprised at “the depth you go comparing teams that you wouldn’t otherwise think to compare and how many layers of the onion you peel back when you get to a bunch of teams who maybe you think are deserving of that last spot.”
Dan Farrugia, 23, a second-year student at Vanderbilt University Law School, liked the bracketing banter in the room.
“There’s not anyone at home who likes college basketball as much as I do, so to interact with nine other people who know as much and might have a different opinion, I think, was the most fun I had,” Farrugia said.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday, there was a cheer from the Super 10 committee as the four number one seeds were announced and we had nailed them all. Groans came when Iona, who was knocked out of our brackets when St. Bonaventure won, made the true field.
But we’re not going to get cocky about how many picks we matched with the real committee. Because now the real test comes for the Super 10 committee: filling out the brackets for our office and dorm pools.