March Madness: Let's check in with Joe Castiglione, who helps seed the tournament
Editor's note: The following is a transcript of a Feb. 10, 2016, media teleconference with Joe Castiglione, the chair of the March Madness/Division I Men's Basketball Committee and Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's vice president for men's basketball championships. All transcripts from the Division I men's basketball championship will be posted to www.NCAA.com/transcripts.
DAVID WORLOCK, NCAA: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today's media teleconference with Joe Castiglione, the athletic director at the University of Oklahoma and the chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee, and Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's vice president for men's basketball championships.
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At this time I'll turn it over to Joe Castiglione. Joe?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Thank you, David. I'd also like to welcome everyone, and thank you for taking time to join us today. I'm in Indianapolis with my colleagues at the NCAA headquarters, where we've been conducting our annual selection orientation meeting. This serves as a refresher for us veteran committee members, as well as an introduction to the voting mechanisms and software for our two new committee members. They include Jim Schaus, the athletics director at Ohio University, and Kevin White, the athletics director at Duke University.
So we're having discussions throughout the day, and they will continue into the evening and tomorrow morning, as if tomorrow is selection Sunday. The 336 teams eligible for the championship are being evaluated, and while everything will be expedited, we will have a mock bracket finished before we adjourn tomorrow.
At that time we'll clean off all the computers and then open the doors to hosting 17 members of the media from around the country for our annual mock selection exercise.
We really have a good group of people who will go through the same process tomorrow afternoon and Friday just as we have been going through today and tomorrow. And by the way, if anyone on this call has a desire to participate in the media mock selection, please reach out to David Worlock.
Before we take questions, I'd like to talk about both some of my own observations as well as the committee's observations about the season to date. I think we know the narrative from various stakeholders who I've spoken to and with several members of the media as to how exciting the season has been and how unpredictable March is setting up to be. I couldn't agree more.
To illustrate what kind of season it's been, Villanova was ranked No. 1 in this week's Associated Press Poll. It became the sixth different team to sit atop of that ranking. Only one other time in the history of the AP Poll, which by the way, dates back to 1948, has there been more than six different teams ranked No. 1 in that poll.
But the madness goes much deeper than just the top of the poll. Among the resources we use to help select and seed teams for the tournament are several computer metrics. Each week we receive a composite ranking of six metrics, and a quick glance of that shows discrepancies up and down the list. For example, Indiana ranks much higher in the Sagarin and Ken Pom rankings compared to the RPI and the BPI. You see similar disparities in various rankings for teams such as Arizona, Dayton, UConn, Cincinnati and Gonzaga. But the process isn't solely analytical. We all evaluate teams by watching and evaluating their play from November through early March, taking other things into consideration such as coach and player availability.
Regardless of how you rank the importance of any of these resources we use to evaluate teams, I think it's safe to say the madness may have arrived early this season, and obviously will stay with us throughout the remainder of the season itself.
To further illustrate what kind of season it's been, typically we have nine -- between nine and 11 conferences that send multiple teams to the tournament. This year I think you could make a case for about 14 leagues that could get multiple bids if the top teams from some of those leagues don't win their AQ by winning their conference tournament. That's because teams such as Monmouth would be under consideration if it weren't an AQ. That's going to make for a very exciting stretch run the remainder of the season, including and through conference tournaments. The teams and the fans all can be engaged as those games are going to have a significant impact on the at-large pool.
You might remember I made a statement last month about how last year there seemed to be much more clarity at the top of the seed line. By this time last year, it was starting to become very obvious, and by the time we started the selection meeting, we made the unprecedented announcement that eight teams were locked in to the top two seed lines.
Based on what we've seen through today, that may not happen again next month. It's just not been that kind of a season. Yet I view this as a good thing, at least from the perspective of a fan of March Madness and the regular season for that matter.
From a committee chair standpoint, I think we have a tough task ahead when we meet in New York City next month. In my opinion, the game is much better than it was a year ago. The pace is better, scoring is up 8 percent from last year, there are 6 percent more possessions than last season, and the games are a little shorter.
One of my favorite nuggets I've read at this point last season, 30 teams were averaging 75 or more points per game. This season, currently, there are 139 teams scoring at that rate. Obviously that's significant.
There are still 25 days in the regular season, but I know I speak for many when I say the changes that have taken place have truly improved the game, and ultimately that was our goal.
With that, I'm ready to answer any questions you might have.
Q. I wanted to kind of review the injury situation. If you've got a player who's played half the season and then missed kind of half the season and isn't full strength going into the tournament, how do you kind of evaluate that situation?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, as we always discuss, we evaluate player ability throughout the season. We have a variety of things that could impact their participation in games from injuries to suspensions to even players who become eligible midway into the season due to transfer rules, for example. So we take that all into consideration, and the committee members look at the context of the team's profile, how they did with the player in the lineup, outside of the lineup, and quite candidly, even those games when they return to the lineup, trying to immerse themselves back into the rotation.
Q. What kind of a decision is made basically looking at the point of how that player is impacting the team currently when you guys are in the room?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, you know, again, we ask how did the team do without the player or players, and you know, this year we have a situation with a coach not being available for some games, so how they do with those individuals, that all has to be taken into consideration.
Q. I'm wondering how the committee handles a situation such as Louisville self-imposing a postseason ban for this year. For teams that have beaten Louisville, which I think would be a quality win I think we all agree, how is that thought out?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: We actually have two of those cases at the current time. Those games against any of the teams under consideration will be included in any and all metrics just like any other team that is part of a team's schedule. So it's valued just the same.
Q. I wanted to ask, I know there's attention paid to obviously the top seed and sending them to opening rounds that are closer, but does the committee spend much time or discuss lower seeded teams and if there's maybe a cost or a geographical advantage of sending maybe a 16 seed or something a little bit closer to home, or does that come up at all?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: It definitely comes up. We try to send as many teams to their closest natural regional location. We don't disadvantage any teams on the top four seed lines.
Q. And also, too, take me through if a team has met in the regular season before, do you discuss that, and how do you bracket that or kind of avoid maybe teams meeting each other if they've already played earlier in the season?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, it's a secondary consideration if it's a non-conference game. We will try to avoid it without inconveniencing anyone. But we've had some of those situations come up, and we consider whether they're happening once, we've had a few exempt tournaments over -- say the last year I'll use as an example. When conference realignment struck there were a couple of teams that weren't in the same conference they were currently in at the moment and then ended up having a replay of a game during the conference season that occurred in an exempt tournament. You know, it happens.
Let me just go back on one thing. As you know, we have a variety of different conference competitive formats. We have larger conferences that could create only one game against two common teams in a given season, sometimes there are double round-robins so there are two games, and then if you include the conference tournament, it could be a third time, and we have principles and procedures that address that. So if you want me to just go over that, teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional final if they played each other three or more times during the regular season or including the conference tournament. If they played each other twice during the regular season, or including the conference tournament, they shall not meet prior to the regional semifinals. Teams from the same conference could play each other as early as the second round if they've only met once. Did that help clear it up? I hope it did.
Q. This is going to some of your earlier comments about how diverse the season has been and up-and-down teams and so forth. Last year I believe that there was a lot of conversation about UCLA passing the, quote-unquote, eye test at the end of the season and making it into the field as an at-large. With so much volatility in the season and with teams being up and down and up and down, how do you see, again, the quote-unquote, eye test coming into play, if at all, or is it going to be dismissed because there's going to be so much of that available for discussion and the eye of the beholder, again, on who should be in and who should be out as opposed to the metrics?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, as you know from comments I've made today and comments that any committee member has made previously, we watch a lot of games, and so we do have a human element in all of our decision-making processes. It's reflected in discussions within the room. We want this to be an all-inclusive evaluation of each of the teams under consideration or those after selection as it relates to seeding.
So in summary, this process is a result of an extensive season-long evaluation of teams, through watching games and through those conference monitoring calls that we have throughout the regular season. Each of our committee members are responsible, either in a primary or secondary role, for monitoring about seven weeks. So it's an intensive effort to try to gather as much information about each team under consideration.
Q. Would you be surprised to see two, three or four teams get in under that kind of scenario?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: I'm not sure I understand your question. What scenario are you talking about?
Q. Where somebody is willing to stand up and say, hey, this team belongs in even though they don't measure up, so to speak, with the numbers compared to others; this team is playing well enough right now even though its numbers may not show it that it should be in the tournament? Would you be comfortable getting two, three or four teams like that in the field? Again, just based on how the season has been playing out, that could very well help.
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, our job is to select the 36 best at-large teams, and with 10 members, each committee member brings his or her own ranking of criteria, so it's not just solely on the computer metrics or not just any one specific criteria. They use them all and include those analytics and their own personal evaluations of the teams. So it's a combination. Head-to-head results matter, results versus common opponents matter, just as an example. And we'll have robust dialogue in the room. In fact, we highly encourage it. We want each and every member to be engaged, and obviously by and through the conference monitoring process, some of our members have the opportunity to see a particular team more often than some others, and so we want anything and everything included in that process.
If it gets passionate, so be it. We welcome it.
Q. Following up on that earlier question about the injuries, Arizona, their leading scorer went out, they went 5-2 without him, they lost a game when he got hurt, and I'm wondering when you look at that stretch, what is kind of the rate where maybe you discount it, if at all, or do you just throw it out and look at the rest of their games without him, or how do you judge that?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, again, we look at the entire record. I don't think you would utilize that type of a phrase, discounting or throwing out anything. That's not something we use in the room. We are certainly aware of the injuries to Trier. We know he's missed seven games, including during that time a couple of the losses that Arizona have incurred. We're aware of the injury to Kaleb. He missed a game against Providence. We're also watching them closely as they're starting to get closer to full strength. So our committee members are tuned in to the PAC-12 in general, and certainly those that are monitoring the PAC-12 are doing their due diligence to make sure the rest of the committee is completely informed.
Q. You mentioned early on that Arizona is one of the teams that kind of had different metrics. I'm just curious, as specifically as you can address it, is kind of anything throwing you off about them as far as that stuff goes right now?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: We aren't going to get into specifics about that at this point in time.
Q. Because I know they had -- their Sagarin is really high and they've only got one top-50 win, just things like that. Do you guys get into that kind of detail, comparing between that and Ken Pom or whatever? They're also high in Ken Pom and low in some others. To what extent are those metrics weighed and contrasted?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Yeah, you're right. Of course those rankings are all public, so anyone can see them. We were just attempting to point out all of the different metrics that a committee member might use or consider in the full vetting of each team.
Q. Joe, I know that having done this before you're no stranger to the recusal policies and that kind of thing, but being the committee chairman and the AD of a team that is clearly in contention for a No. 1 seed, I guess the question would be just from a pure mechanical standpoint of the committee, would it be easier if Oklahoma played their way into a clearer position in terms of just putting the bracket together where the recusal policy doesn't really impact what you have to do?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, as you know, we have a common practice that, and you referred to it, whenever a team is brought up for discussion and there's a committee member inside the room that represents or has some type of affiliation with the team, they automatically get up and leave the room. In the case of Oklahoma, I'll be stepping out as the case warrants, and at that point in time my vice-chair Mark Hollis will run the meeting until such time that the discussion has concluded.
I may also mention that since I've received this question several times over the last few weeks, I've asked around whether or not this has happened before, and I actually found that it's not unprecedented. Several committee chairs in the recent past have represented universities that were not just certainties for the tournament but they were very high seeds. Two come to mind. I think when Gene Smith, the athletics director at Ohio State, was serving as the chair, Ohio State was considered for that top seed line. I think also when Dan Guerrero, the athletic director at UCLA, was both on the committee and/or serving as chair, UCLA was involved in a very similar situation.
So I'd much rather have to step out of the room because my team is being considered for a spot in the tournament rather than stay in my seat the whole time because Oklahoma isn't being discussed.
But as I mentioned, we have rules for that, and they certainly will be followed.
Q. I have a question involving injuries and how rosters can change during a season, and I'm thinking of LSU, who struggled early on but they've added two players, one from injury and another as a transfer, and have done much better. How does the committee and just generally deal with it's basically two different teams you could say, one with those guys and one without? How does the committee weigh that?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, we certainly are aware. Coincidentally I was able to see LSU in person, so I know a little bit more about them. I know Victor missed the first eight games. I know they went 4-4 during that time, had losses, I think, to Marquette by one, I think NC State in overtime. They lost to Charleston and they lost at Houston in overtime. I also know that Hornsby missed seven games, and during that time they lost three times. So there are overlaps there, and we know those two guys were out. I mean, those kinds of considerations will be discussed in the room.
I know Patterson also, I think he missed the Houston game, as well, so we have all of that posted for our committee so they keep that in mind during our deliberations.
Q. I guess you can't say if one version of the LSU team, the more recent one, would weigh heavier than the older different LSU team, the team from earlier in the season? I guess you can't say that?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, as we've said in a variety of different ways, every game counts. We know that they are back healthy now, and as they complete the remainder of the season, their full profile will be evaluated and then determined if they're going to continue on to play in March.
As we know, we're giving you this kind of sort of interim snapshot of where we are, but we also recognize there are many more games ahead where they can play with their full complement of players.
Q. How does the committee look at any team that, say, has two or three wins against top-50 RPI opponents but also two or three losses to teams outside the top 100? How does that go down?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, all the games count. It's very common. Like we said earlier, every committee member gathers every piece of information and uses it in their personal evaluation.
Q. You mentioned a moment ago teams from the same conference could play each other as early as the second round if they've only met once. I want to get a clarification of what the second round is. Is that a Thursday or Friday game on the first week of the tournament, or is that a Saturday or Sunday game on the first week of the tournament?
DAVID WORLOCK: That's a good question. I'll answer that question for you. So we have now gone back changing our vernacular, so the Thursday-Friday games will be known as first and second rounds, so there's no more, quote-unquote, third round. So Thursday and Friday is the Round of 64, Saturday and Sunday is the Round of 32, and then obviously the Sweet 16 and Final Four hasn't been changed, and then the First Four are the Tuesday and Wednesday following selection Sunday. Those are the opening round games that will be played in Dayton. So the First Four games will be played in Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday.
To answer your question, the second-round games refer to the games on the weekend, Saturday and Sunday.
Q. So those opening round games are now referred to as opening round games?
DAVID WORLOCK: First Four. We call it the First Four, then the First and Second Rounds, then the regionals.
Q. Almost from the start of conference season, I've seen a lot of ACC games this year, and almost from the start of the season coaches have been suddenly and not so suddenly been lobbying for multiple bids. You hear them using buzz words like the depth of the league is so good this year, every team in this league is a threat to win, every time-out. I just wondered if that type of conversation, if those types of words seep into any members' minds when they're determining whether someone like the ACC should get seven or eight bids and someone like a CAA gets one?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, we understand the passion everyone has for the league in which they play. They doesn't have any bearing.
Q. When you look at a team like Monmouth, let's say hypothetically that they did not win their league and they're in a position where they need an at-large bid. How much of an uphill climb would it be just from the standpoint of their league not having been very good and them potentially paying the price for the teams that they've beaten not being very good?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: Well, Monmouth, as an example, has many quality wins on their profile to date. You know what they did in the non-conference portion of the schedule. And that includes both wins on neutral courts or what we consider true road games. I think they have a case to be under consideration in the event they don't win the MAC tournament in Albany.
Q. I know that whoever is watching the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, obviously they're watching Monmouth, they have three ESPN games coming up. Are those games that committee members might try to zero in on just to try to get a better idea of Monmouth and just what they're looking at?
JOE CASTIGLIONE: We have access to all games, and we have a variety of different ways to get that, linear television, digital. We have a video computer service called Synergy that we can get games even following their conclusion. The committee members have taken full advantage of any and all ways to see the teams play and use that in their consideration.