Ron Wellman answers questions about seeding, game sites and more
RON WELLMAN: We're in the middle of the committee's annual selection orientation meeting which is a valuable exercise for all of us whether you're veterans or a rookie like Bruce Rasmussen, who is in his first year with us.
This process allows the veterans on the committee to reacquaint themselves to the selection, seeding and bracketing process while Bruce gets introduced to the process and the voting system.
We like what we have seen thus far, and the expectation from the Men's Basketball Committee is that the tournament will be officiated consistent with the enforcement we have seen during the regular season.
With that, I'll be glad to take any questions that you might have.
Q. Ron, I cover Kentucky. The SEC only has two ranked teams. I'm wondering, there's a general thought that it's hard for a team to improve its seeding or standing because there aren't very many other marquee opponents within the league, and any loss to one of those teams could be detrimental. What do you make of all that?
RON WELLMAN: Well, there is some factual basis to that. We are in the midst right now of receiving all of the monitors' reports about the various conferences.
One factor that is reported on consistently is the RPI or are the RPIs of the teams in that conference and whether the other teams that may be under consideration do have an opportunity to move up the RPI as a result of the strength or lack of strength of that particular conference.
So that is a factor that the committee does consider when evaluating teams and whether they will be selected and where they will be seeded especially.
Q. Ron, along those same lines, maybe conversely, the Big Ten, the bottom of the Big Ten is better than ever. It's led to a lot of parity in the league. How much is that taken into consideration through RPI and other measurements, that the Big Ten is maybe considered the best conference in the country?
RON WELLMAN: That is the converse of the previous question about the SEC. That is taken into consideration, as well. The committee looks at the strength of the overall schedule, the strength of the non conference schedule. Of course, those are reflected in the RPI. That's a part of the RPI equation.
A conference like the Big Ten that is very deep this year, as you mentioned, they are going to benefit from the RPIs of those particular teams. So the teams are judged individually, but a part of that judgment, of course, is who you play, where you play, and the result of the game.
But those conferences that are exceptionally strong and have a lot of depth are benefited by that depth and strength of depth.
Q. Refresh my memory on whether there's any weight at all given to a team's finishing run, last X number of games, how they do down the stretch.
RON WELLMAN: No. It used to be I think the last 10 games of the season were considered as a factor. That is no longer. When was that, five or six years ago, that that was eliminated as a factor to be considered.
Q. Colorado appears to present the classic injury situation. They lost their best player Spencer Dinwiddie about a month ago. Historically the committee looks at what it has going forward from the point of that injury on. Specifically I'm wondering whether the committee has any way of actually assigning an RPI to that team post injury; in other words, how it would stack up in the RPI without that player?
RON WELLMAN: No, we have not factored that in in terms of the RPI. It is a factor that is considered when we receive the monitors' reports about the individual conferences. In fact, we just did a conference where we went into some depth about the injuries of those teams within that conference. So it is certainly considered to varying degrees by the individual members of the committee.
Some members of the committee probably consider it very strongly and other members less so. It is a subjective factor that the committee members do take into consideration, like I said, to varying degrees.
Q. Back to the question of the strength of schedule and all of that with the RPI. There's huge debate about Wichita State's situation. Wichita will argue they shouldn't be penalized for what they can't change, which is essentially the conference they're in. How do you combat that argument?
RON WELLMAN: I don't know that we do combat it. We accept it for what it is. We look at, like I said, the non conference strength of schedule. We look at the overall strength of schedule. Those are two factors that are considered within the RPI. Again, the committee members will have varying degrees of emphasis upon those two factors.
We look at the overall schedule and the RPI associated with the teams that they played. But we look at the attempt of what they have tried to do, as well.
Oftentimes schools will develop a schedule thinking that it is a very strong schedule only to have their opponents fall on their face and the schedule isn't nearly as strong as what they thought it might be originally.
Those are some of the factors that we look at beyond just the RPI. There are many, many metrics that we use beyond the RPI. The RPI does a good job of capturing all those metrics, but again, the various metrics can be used by the conference members.
Q. Does a mid major complicate things because they also argue that they've tried to schedule teams, whereas a BCS type of a school has the luxury of making things more appealing? Does that make things more complicated when you look at a team such as Wichita because of that?
RON WELLMAN: Well, we do not label teams or conferences as majors or mid majors. We report by conference.
But one of the real surprising factors to me in the five years that I've been on the committee is that we don't get into conference details. As we are selecting teams and seeding teams, bracketing teams, there are some conference influences there with our principles and procedures, but overall we don't count the number of teams that are from a certain conference or where those conference teams might be seeded.
We pay no attention to what the team's labels publicly might be, whether it be mid major, major, beyond that or less than that. That is not a factor that the committee members look at.
Q. The reference to Colorado a bit ago, I understand it's a subjective deal with the voters on the committee, but do committee members typically consider a team after a catastrophic injury, do they consider it a whole new team and discount or wipe away everything that happened before the injury or do they consider Colorado's win over Kansas maybe to a lesser degree? How does that work?
RON WELLMAN: I would say the injuries generally affect the seeding more than the selection process. We have to be very careful about the amount of emphasis that we put upon an injury. We don't know, for instance, the opponent of that player who is playing for Team A and might be injured. Well, what is the opponent's situation and what factors are impacting their level of play at that particular time. We just have to be very careful about what the injury impact is on any particular team.
But, like I said, I think my experience in the first four years on the committee is that the injuries affect the seeding rather than the selection to a greater degree.
Q. You touched on the new bracketing principles. Can you go into more detail about what exactly changed so fans can get an understanding of what was causing an issue in the past with regards to the seeding lines and why it's different now.
RON WELLMAN: We're trying to achieve a couple of different things. No. 1, we're trying to honor the seed lines. So the first four teams will stay on the No. 1 seed line, the second four teams will stay on the No. 2 seed line, all the way through 16.
As I said in my opening remarks, there have been a number of teams where we've had to drop a team, promote a team a seed line. There was even a case a couple years ago where a seed dropped two seed lines.
We don't feel that is appropriate, we don't feel that is fair to a team being dropped or promoted or the teams being affected by that or the teams they have to play as a result of their being dropped or promoted. That, first and foremost, is important.
Secondly, we have much more flexibility now for teams in the same conference to play one another earlier in the tournament. We felt that was really important, especially as conferences expand their membership. Not many conferences now are playing a true double round robin in the regular season, that we're not getting the true picture of a conference situation maybe as much as we did a number of years ago.
We have conference teams playing each other one time. If they're playing each other one time during the regular season, and the tournament, then we are going to allow them to play each other much earlier in the NCAA tournament. They'll be able to play one another in the third round.
If they play each other twice during the regular season and conference tournament, then those teams will be able to meet in the NCAA tournament in the first round of the Regionals or the Sweet 16.
If they play one another three times in the regular season and conference tournament, then they would be delayed playing one another until the Elite 8 or the finals of the Regional.
Finally, we want to talk about the geography. We feel that these new principles will give us the opportunity to place teams, we're hoping, in a geographical area where it's a bit easier for them and their fans to travel to that particular location.
Q. About strength of schedule, just generally how much the committee would give weight to playing a neutral site game versus playing a similarly strong opponent on the other guy's home court?
RON WELLMAN: Well, there is a difference. At the same time there are many neutral site games that are more of a home court scenario for one team or another. But if it is truly a neutral site, that is taken into consideration. The committee views it just as a neutral site, that it's not a home or away game.
Again, the question the committee asks is, Who did you play, how did you play and where did you play it? Those are the three important questions that we continually refer back to.
Obviously the location being a neutral site is probably considered by the committee members much more neutrally than it would be if it were being played as a true road game versus a true home game.
Q. Just to make sure I understand right, you're saying if you play on the other guy's court, that carries more value than a neutral site game, and the committee would weigh, if one team had a whole lot of fans there, that would lessen the value of that game also?
RON WELLMAN: Yes, we do look at those neutral site games. For instance, if Wake Forest were playing in Greensboro, calling that a neutral site game, it's probably more of a home court advantage for Wake Forest than the other team. So is that truly a neutral site game? Those are the type of things we talk about when evaluating neutral site games.
Q. From the very beginning you talked about the new rules emphasis. The statistics seem to show a mixed bag where scoring is up a little bit, but so are free throws. What has been your feedback with some of the coaches you've talked to specifically about the consistency of how the games are officiated? Do you anticipate new emphasis or new rules in the future?
RON WELLMAN: Well, our committee met with the NABC board of directors last year. The NABC board of directors, as you well know, those are all college head coaches. They just simply said, Tell us what the rules are, how you're going to call the games. Call the games consistently, we will adjust to whatever you want.
I think our coaches have done a superb job of making that adjustment. Their coaching techniques have adopted the new points of emphasis. If you look at every statistical metric that we review, the game has more freedom of movement which has led to more scoring and I think a much more exciting game.
The beauty of college basketball is that we have great athletes out there. When people are playing defense as it has been played the last couple of decades, we don't have the opportunity to enjoy the athleticism that our college basketball players have. We're seeing that more and more today.
When you look at the number of free throws, the number of free throws have increased a couple of free throws or fouls each game. Like I said, every statistical category, offensive statistical metric, has increased this year. I think the scoring is up this year. The average score of games is the highest it's been in 10, 12 years if I'm not mistaken.
We are very encouraged about the trend line we are seeing in the way the games are officiated, the way the coaches have responded to the new emphasis on freedom of movement, and the way the players have adapted to it, as well.
So we know that this is going to be a multiple year process. We're not going to achieve everything that we want to achieve for the game of college basketball in the first year. But we're very encouraged about how everyone from the officials, coaches and players have responded to the new points of emphasis.
Q. Just the challenge the committee is going to face in whittling down to teams for the bracket. Is there more parity right now? What does the landscape look like?
RON WELLMAN: Well, the committee voted today to expand the tournament to 140 teams to try to accommodate those concerns (laughter).
No, you're right. If you look at the last few years, each year it seems as though there's more balance, there's more equity in college basketball. That does make the committee's charge more challenging, but it's great for college basketball.
I think the game is improving every year. It's becoming a better game to watch because of the equity. You look at some of the scores this year, what many people would describe as upsets. There are a number of those games it seems every night. That's good for college basketball. That's good for the fans to go to their arenas or coliseums every night knowing that my team has a chance to win even though they may not be as highly ranked or have the RPI as our opponent. I think the balance and equity is fantastic.
When I hear college basketball coaches being interviewed today, I'm hearing them say that they could see or anticipate 12 to 18 teams winning the national championship. I've never heard numbers like that in previous years. But I've heard probably six or seven coaches suggest that 12 to 18 teams have a legitimate chance of winning the national championship, which is great for college basketball.
Q. The neutral site versus a true away game. Tell me if I'm wrong, but the impression I have is that if a team has a rabid fan base, and those fans flood the arena for a neutral site game, they're actually in a perverse way doing their team harm; they would be better off staying away so the team would get more value out of the neutral site game. What do you think of that?
RON WELLMAN: That's an interesting point. I don't think that any team is going to encourage their fans to stay away to gain added validity to a neutral site game.
I don't know that that really has an impact upon what we are trying to do as a committee. We know those neutral sites sometimes are not as neutral as they are labeled to be. The committee takes that into consideration.
Again, there's a wide range of attitudes on the committee about how impactful those neutral site games with a lot of fans attending that neutral site is. Some committee members probably treat it as close to a home game and others treat it as a true neutral site game.
Q. The neutral site, the factor that Ron was talking about, is more of a subjective thing to apply to the numbers that you just mentioned, right?
DAVE WORLOCK: Sure. Winning on a court 50 miles from home is much different than winning on a court halfway across the country or all the way across the country or in Maui or on a military base overseas.
Q. Your comment tongue and cheek on expansion of the tournament to 140 has me wondering, is there any groundswell of sentiment to expand the tournament? Specifically, is there a big push by TV to expand it?
RON WELLMAN: No, not at all. Why don't we go back to that comment and delete that comment of 140 teams. I meant 160 (laughter).
No, we have not had any conversation about expansion since, when was it, two years ago that we were looking at that possibility, maybe three years ago. Since we've expanded to 68, we've had no further discussions whatsoever. I haven't heard any discussions from coaches or any constituency about the possibility of expanding.
DAVE WORLOCK: This will be year four of the 68 team field.
Q. In recent years the NCAA has been proactive in trying to reach out to the media forums such as this. It's helped alleviate some of the mystery of the process. Is there like one lingering misconception about how the committee operates that for whatever reason we can't kill that misconception? Is there something fans still think about the committee that is wrong?
RON WELLMAN: I think there are various conspiracy theories out there about you don't want this coach to play that coach, you don't want this team to play that team, whatever it might be.
Again, this is my fifth year on the committee, and I have never heard a conversation even coming close to that, whether it be in the committee room, at lunches, dinners, casual conversation. No one ever talks about those types of things.
That's probably the question that I personally get as much as any. So that would be the one area that I would like to see eliminated, one question I would like to see eliminated.