Ron Wellman answers questions about conference tournaments, Big Dance
RON WELLMAN: Thank you for joining us Wednesday morning. The Committee is all here in the selection room. Most of them arrived Tuesday. One of them actually took a redeye to get here Wednesday morning.
We are ready to begin the process. The Committee, they are individually reviewing their important information. We will begin the process of meetings and deliberations and voting on the selection, seeding and bracketing at 1:00 this afternoon.
We look forward to a productive week, the next five days, and feel that this is going to be a great tournament starting next week.
With that, let's open it up for questions.
Q. I'm at the SEC tournament, which starts Wednesday. The championship game is Sunday afternoon. Won't be over till probably 5:15, 5:30. How impactful can whatever happens in a championship game that late in the week or in the process affect what the Committee's decisions are?
RON WELLMAN: It can have an impact obviously depending on which teams are in that championship game. The Committee will be prepared for that eventuality if it does occur by having a number of contingency plans, whether it be selection, seeding or bracketing.
There have been a number of years where there have been four or five brackets active very late in the game, whether it be the SEC championship or other reasons. But the Committee will be well prepared for any possibility late Sunday afternoon.
Q. I know the RPI is not the be all, end all. I'm wondering if there is a general range that teams should be in to feel comfortable about getting serious consideration Is there a number on the RPI, once you're outside that range, that hope is flickering if not gone?
RON WELLMAN: No, not really. You can look at it historically and make some type of decision or analysis based upon history.
But the Committee has never really discussed, 'Well, this team is below this number RPI, therefore they're not deserving to get in.'
The Committee has a number of sources and resources available to them. They use all of that data. The RPI is just one of the data points that is available to the Committee.
So it is not the end all by any stretch of the imagination. It is not only the data that is available to the Committee, but the evaluation of individual Committee members. They have seen an awful lot of games this year. They've attended games personally. They've watched games on TV. They've scoured the data so they are well prepared to make those decisions.
But, no, there is no cut point in any of the analyses available to us, whether it's RPI or some other source.
Q. During the second and third round games last season, attendance was down markedly in some areas, in some surprising locations like Lexington and Salt Lake City. I know you have the pod system to boost attendance, but is the trend a concern and what do you attribute it to?
RON WELLMAN: Well, there are many trends that we evaluate annually. We believe this year is going to be an attractive tournament and the tickets will eventually be sold out. We're very encouraged by the ticket sales that have occurred thus far.
There are a number of issues nationally that are going on that are affecting attendance of not only college athletics and college basketball, but other sports. Look at professional sports, they are being affected as well, with the options that fans have today to view games, whether it be big screen TVs or a number of other options probably, as well.
But we are encouraged that this tournament is going to be a very attractive tournament to the fans. We're doing our best and have done our best in previous years to place teams in a location where their fans can easily access those teams, get to the games. We will again do that this year.
We want to make it as easy as possible for the fans to follow their teams as deeply into the tournament as we can.
Q. You're taking second and third round games to places that are unusual, a place like San Antonio. Is there a concern, if you don't get teams close by, that attendance will struggle?
RON WELLMAN: Actually, the cities that we're going to have hosted NCAA tournament games in the past. San Antonio, of course, has been a tremendous venue for us and location. It is one of the sites that we are asked about most often when they do not have a tournament there. This is a very attractive site for us to return to. We think we're going to do well there.
Again, it depends upon to a certain extent the teams that are playing in that venue and how easily the fans can get to the tournament.
We need to remember this is a national tournament and we try to assign the cities nationally. We want balance geographically. We're going out west this year. We're going to New York for the first time in many, many years. 53 years since we've been to New York.
We are trying to look at locations that have been successful in the past but also new locations that we believe will be successful currently. So that's why you're seeing some of the new cities appear as hosts for the tournament.
Q. The Kenpom analytic service that a lot of coaches use to evaluate teams, I'm curious if that's part of your discussion at all. There's some dramatic swings in what a team's RPI is and what a teams Kenpom number is. I wonder if the Committee is aware of those situations.
RON WELLMAN: To me, the Committee is very aware of everything. The Committee looks at every piece of data that we can put our hands on.
Kenpom, RPI, all that data, we have a list of data points that we can use. Sagarin, the LRNC, it just goes on and on.
Various Committee members will emphasize and use that data to various degrees. Some of them will reply on certain data more than others. So it just depends upon the Committee member.
This process can be very subjective. Certain Committee members will value certain pieces of data more than others. All of that information is available and easily accessible by the Committee members.
Q. [Question regarding the status of injured players, particularly those injured in the past few weeks.]
RON WELLMAN: The Committee is well aware of those injuries. We will follow those injuries. We will get updates on the injuries. We already received a report this morning about an injury. We will be well aware of the latest information and whether that individual is going to be available to his team during the tournament.
It is a discussion point with the Committee, the injury reports, how that might impact the team.
Again, it is up to the individual Committee member as to how much weight they want to put on that particular injury.
Q. How much time do you spend seeding 14 through 16 teams rather than the rest of the field?
RON WELLMAN: I don't think there's much difference at all. We have subcommittees working on each of the quadrants. Those subcommittees will begin meeting Thursday night. So the subcommittees will report to the full Committee.
We have a fourth quadrant subcommittee, a first quadrant subcommittee, and a mid quadrant subcommittee. So those committees will be hard at work beginning tomorrow night analyzing the various teams that might be included in those various quadrants and they will be reporting to the full Committee. They will be scrubbing those teams that may be in those quadrants on a daily basis. To answer your question, there's no more emphasis on the first quadrant than there would be on the fourth quadrant.
Q. This is more of a fan interest question. I'm sure you've heard about the Warren Buffet prize for filling out a perfect bracket. I'm wondering if in all your data crunching you all have figured out the percentage chance of that happening?
RON WELLMAN: We really pay little or no attention to that. We have other things that we need to tend to at this point.
Q. I was wondering, you've been on the Committee for several years now. The challenges that you have this season, do you see this perhaps as maybe the most wide open tournament in terms of quality and depth of teams nationally that there might have been in a long time?
RON WELLMAN: I'm looking at some of the Committee members right now and they're all shaking their heads yes. I think it is, in the five years I've been on the Committee anyway. But we say this every year, so maybe there's more and more parity in college basketball every year.
This year is unlike any of the five years that I have seen. There is an awful lot of parity and balance in the game which will make it more challenging for the Committee, but should produce a really exciting tournament as well.
I think that's good for college basketball that we have the parity that we do and should produce, like I said, a great NCAA basketball tournament.
Q. The question about attendance. You said as much as possible you'd like to make it as easy as possible for fans to follow their team. I'm assuming that applies more to the best seeds than it does to the lower seeds. How do you try to balance making it easy access while also having balanced regions, West, Midwest, so on?
RON WELLMAN: We certainly do decide the top quadrant, how close they are to their competitive sites. That doesn't mean that we ignore it the rest of the way.
The geographical distance from their university is the first thing that we look at as we are looking at the bracketing. Our principles and procedures mandate that we consider geographical location as a primary consideration regardless of the seed line.
But obviously the top seed lines are going to secure the best geographical locations for them, and then our principles and procedures for the lower seed lines, we certainly will consider geography.
But sometimes there's opportunities because of the other principles and procedures regarding seeding or bracketing that we need to follow at that point.
Q. You may sort of repeat before what you said about injuries. Joel Embiid is the highest profile injury and impactful injury, given what Kansas could do with him, without him. How do you follow that one particularly? What information do you keep an eye on there and how does that affect where you put the Jayhawks next week?
RON WELLMAN: Where that puts the Jayhawks next week, we haven't even started those discussions yet. I can assure that the Committee members are well aware of the that injury. We will be following it throughout the week. We will be in contact with Kansas to get various updates.
So we will be in as good a position as we possibly can be to place Kansas in the right seed line and the right location in following that injury and the impact that injury could have upon Kansas.
You need to remember, too, that we have seen Kansas play three times without him now. We'll have the opportunity to see Kansas play a number of times possibly this week in their conference tournament without him.
Q. Along the lines of injuries, I think it was three years ago when Syracuse had an injury. They told the Committee that somebody was going to be able to play in the tournament that wasn't able to play. How can you be sure you're getting the right information from the schools regarding injuries?
RON WELLMAN: We have to rely upon what the schools tell us. We don't have a CIA operation here where we can go in the backdoor and find out information that they are not giving us. So we do rely upon the school's truthfulness with us and we believe they do tell us the truth.
Sometimes it doesn't pan out the way they predict. But they believe they do their best to give us the very best diagnosis. The diagnosis of an injury can change from day to day, as well. That could have very well been the case in the situation that you refer to.
So we will be in close contact with Kansas and any other team that has an injured player through this week.
Q. When you judge Kansas with him versus without him, is it truly a matter of their record?
RON WELLMAN: I can assure you in any situation whether it regards an injury or an overall evaluation of a team, the Committee not only looks at the victory or the one loss record, we look at how the team played, who they played, where they played that particular team.
So it is a very deep evaluation of a team that goes way beyond whether they won or lost that particular game.