Q&A with DI committee chair
Hathaway answers media’s questions about selection process
JEFF HATHAWAY: Good morning to everyone on the call. Special thanks to each of you for joining us today. And grateful to our friends on the West Coast who had to get up bright and early. We're in the selection room right now in Indianapolis, where we're now focused on selecting the 37 best at-large teams to join the 31 automatic qualifiers, as all 68 teams compete for the National Championship.
Along with my colleague, Lynn Hickey, we are the two fifth-year members on the committee and have seen an awful lot over the past five years. Couple of things that really jump out for me as we go into this selection week is to look back on 2008, when the first four teams on the seed list, on the first line, ended up being our Final Four teams when we got to the National Championship. And I think that really is such a different scenario than what we see today.
I think we would all agree that if the season ended today, we certainly would know who the two best teams are. If we were looking at the third and fourth positions the first line and the entire second line, I would venture to say we all have the same handful of teams in mind, but certainly where they would be placed would be a tremendous debate. And that debate will certainly be further enhanced over the next three or four days as we play out the conference tournaments.
The other thing that I would say is that as we meet as a committee and talk about the teams, we certainly view the fact that there's a greater number of quality teams this year than we've ever seen before. We said that last year. We feel there's more quality this year. And certainly that's going to make the process even more challenging. I heard the other day somebody talk about quality teams and say that in the past they felt that some committees have overlooked quality teams.
The one thing that I want to share with you is I see it quite the other way, and that is there are an awful lot of quality teams. But each and every one of those quality teams is thoroughly vetted and discussed by the committee. We probably look at more quality team and discuss their ability to be in the field than probably anybody else that looks at the bracket or deals with the bracketology, if you will. But the fact of the matter is, as we look at those quality teams, at some point we have to look at the degree of the quality and we've got to determine which of those teams would comprise the 37 best teams in the country to fill those at-large slots.
Unfortunately, the end result means that some of those quality teams may not make the field. I can tell you this, shortly we're going to begin our conference monitoring session. As you all know, that is an extensive, thorough review, vetting and analysis of each and every team that is under consideration or is in the discussion at this point. We will then file our first ballot, the initial ballot, which is a private personal ballot. And at that time the committee members will have to determine who they individually want to put on the at-large list and who they want to put on the under consideration list.
After that, we'll break for dinner. We'll come back. We'll see the results of the initial ballot. And then we'll begin our work for the rest of the week. We're going to really do our very best to make Thursday and Friday very, very productive so that we can use Saturday to see how the games play out, make the necessary adjustments, double-check and triple check our work, and then look forward to bracketing on Sunday. Again, I want to thank you all for being with us, and we're happy to entertain any and all questions that you have.
Q. Jeff, I was wondering, the injury to Branden Dawson for Michigan State, do you downgrade Michigan State because he was such a key player and seed them according to the team they are now and not the team they were with Branden Dawson?
JEFF HATHAWAY: That's a great question. And obviously on an annual basis we have to deal with player availability questions of this nature. Probably two that stand out in all of our minds over the past couple of years would be Patty Mills at St. Mary's and Robbie Hummel at Purdue. Certainly the young man you're talking about is a very productive member of that team. I believe he was averaging about 20, 21 minutes a game. And we will talk about his role, and we will talk about the impact of his not being available to the team as they go into the postseason.
That will be thoroughly vetted today in our conference monitoring reports and it will thoroughly be vetted as we go through seeding conversations the remainder of the week. The other great thing about this situation, if you will, is that we're going to have the ability to see Michigan State play without him. And that's a situation in the past scenarios that maybe we didn't have that opportunity.
Q. I just had a question about all the mid-majors that had great seasons at least from a won/loss perspective from the fact they don't get a lot of TV time. You talk a lot about the eye test. When you compare those teams with teams from BCS conferences, how muchdoes the RPI and the strength of schedule play a part in the consideration?
JEFF HATHAWAY: You ask a great question. And I think we would all be surprised how much those teams are on TV or their games are streamed on their conference websites or their institutional websites. So it's safe to say between the ten people in this room, a tremendous amount of games are seen both in person and/or on television or Web streaming. We really don't use the term mid-major, power conferences.
We don't talk in those terms in the room. When we look at teams, we look at their body of work, front to back, beginning to end, and we put them up against other teams that are being considered for selection. So that's the bulk of our work. That's really the bulk of the work, Joe, and that's why we spend so many days and hours here is to make sure that we compare all those teams, frankly, irregardless of what conference they come from.
Q. And RPI, SOS, what role does that play?
JEFF HATHAWAY: I think there's a lot of criteria. And, unfortunately, I think a lot of people go immediately to RPI or go to one or two criteria, when there really is a litany of criteria that we look at. And that could involve head-to-head competition, common opponents, road records. As we all know any coach in any league will tell you it's difficult to win on the road. Overall strength of schedule. Nonconference strength of schedule. Obviously, we look at competition against top quality teams. And we all know what the bottom line premise has been of the committee over the past years, and that is who did you play, where did you play them and how did you do.
We also have different resources such as the coaches regional advisory committee balloting. Various computer rankings that you all are familiar with. So a wide range of tools are available for us in our toolbox.
Q. Following up on that, actually, can you specify about how much you weigh the RPI versus, say, a Sagarin power rating or one of the other power ratings, are they equal, or does the RPI still carry a little more weight?
JEFF HATHAWAY: I don't think it carries any more weight. I think, one, it's hard to weigh each of those criteria and how you factor them. Different situations appear on different team sheets. And there's ten individuals in this room, and those ten individuals might view it all a little bit differently.
Q. The reason I ask is out here in the Pac-12, there's a number of high RPI teams that feel like they're penalized because the league did so bad collectively in the nonconference season. And I'm wondering is that a factor, how do you look at the Pac-12? Is this a league that could be everyone's on the bubble kind of deal going into their tournament?
JEFF HATHAWAY: We'll look at them just like we look at any other team. We'll look at them no differently. That's the entire body of work. November through the conference tournament. Their overall strength of schedule. Their nonconference strength of schedule. Who did they play in the nonconference how did they do in the nonconference. Those are all the same lists of criteria that I just answered would be the way we would look at those teams.
Q. Early on, Jeff, you said that everybody on the committee certainly knows who the two best teams are. I'm assuming you mean Kentucky and Syracuse. And if so, how secure should those teams feel as No. 1 seeds?
JEFF HATHAWAY: Well, I don't ever want to say anybody should feel secure, because if I did, those two coaches would probably get after me and say that we took away some motivation. So the bottom line is what I would say is I think everybody today, if the season ended, would say those two teams are the best teams in the country. But to sit there and try to project, which I've said many times, the role of this committee is not to project or to predict, we don't know what's going to happen over the course of the remainder of the week.
And let's hope there's no injuries. Let's hope there's no problems like that. No suspensions. But the fact of the matter is that we really don't know that and, quite frankly, we haven't selected anybody into the field, any at larges. And your question's a little premature.
Q. And I also wanted to ask, I'm at the SEC tournament, and as you know the championship game is Sunday and won't end before 3:00 in the afternoon Eastern Time at the earliest. How, given that late ending, how much impact could the SEC championship game have in the various seeding and bracketing, barring some upset where a team that wasn't in won the tournament?
JEFF HATHAWAY: Well, I trust that you were probably at the Southeast Conference Championship in Atlanta when they had the weather problems and moved the games to Georgia Tech, had to play the two games in one day. Certainly that was a very, very interesting scenario. And, quite frankly, as a committee, we had five different brackets in place because there was a wide range of scenarios that could happen based upon who was participating in those games and some of the other Sunday games. So we actually selected, seeded, bracketed five different scenarios that we had in the computer on Sunday, and as those scenarios played out, we deleted that particular one until we got down to the eventual field.
Q. All throughout the year, up to now, the Big Ten has been widely regarded and ranked by several computers as the top conference in the league. And yet we're seeing a lot of projections that don't have a Big Ten team as a No. 1 seed. Does that jibe at all with the committee? Do you guys look at conference rankings when you play a part in this, or could we just possibly end up with the No. 1 rated conference not having a No. 1 seed?
JEFF HATHAWAY: Fact of the matter is conference RPI and conference rankings are not brought up in the committee room at all. When I first came on the committee, conference RPI was one of the criteria -- one of the statistical facts that was listed on the team sheets. We voted to take that off. So conference RPI, conference rank, is not something that we talk about here.
Q. Can we kind of go into that a little bit more, given that obviously who you play in your conference has a huge amount to do with your strength of schedule. Why did the committee vote to take that off the sheets?
JEFF HATHAWAY: Well, because when we're comparing teams for potential selection, it really doesn't matter if we're comparing two teams from the same conference or if we're comparing two teams from separate conferences. We're looking at individual teams' bodies of work. And we just did not feel that the conference RPI or the conference ranking was necessarily pertinent to that. And, again, part of that is because the games in the conference are incorporated into the team's overall resumé any how. So we see that. We see what they did against their competition within the league, and we see what they did against the competition outside the league.
Q. The other thing I was going to ask you -- I know you can't look into everybody's soul -- but if you had two teams that were almost identical in what you were looking at and one of them was, say, a team that had a pretty rich tournament history and one of them was a team that never really gets there, do you have any requirement that somebody tried to just throw that sort of subjective or maybe objective factor away? Is it hard to just ignore something like that?
JEFF HATHAWAY: Past performance in the tournaments, the lack of past performance in the tournament is not brought up in the room at any time. We're looking at this year's teams, and we're looking at their body of work.
Q. This might be too specific and too hypothetical, but I'll ask it anyway. In the case of Kansas and Missouri, you have Kansas that finished two games ahead of Missouri in the conference. They split head to head. If they were to make it to the title game, does that become something you say whoever wins it goes, is that a possibility, or do you say Kansas still has enough of an advantage? How do you just weigh all the factors there?
JEFF HATHAWAY: We would look at Kansas, and we would look at Missouri and we would look at those other handful of teams that we believe are due consideration for the first line and the second line and we would compare them all with each other. So it goes back to what I alluded to, and that is head-to-head competition is a factor that's considered. Common opponents is a factor. Right down the list. We'll look at the full body of work. One game -- one game is not going to determine, be the sole determinant for where they're going to be seeded.
Q. How much do you value winning a conference championship and a long win streak, let's say 18, 19 games in a row?
JEFF HATHAWAY: Winning games is obviously the bottom line and the most important factor. Winning them in a row, I don't know that that really factors into the equation. The bottom line, as you know, Andy, is who did you play, where did you play them and how did you do. And we've talked in the past that the committee looks at trends. And we factor all those things in. So to answer your question succinctly, I'm not sure winning streaks are something that we all sit there and make a focal point. I will say if they won the regular season, obviously you know that's a big deal, because it puts them under consideration automatically. But that's as far as I can go with that.