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The Selection Committee Loves Brand-Name Schools

Illustration for article titled The Selection Committee Loves Brand-Name Schools

Every NCAA Tournament has its snubs, its questionable inclusions, and baffling seedings. But few seasons have produced so clear a narrative as this one has: it's very, very good to have name recognition.


Here is the selection committee's seed list, its actual 1-68 ranking. Every school from No. 47 on won its conference tournament, so Dayton(!) was the very last team in. And UCLA and Texas were the last two to avoid the play-in games.


The Bruins' and Longhorns' inclusion, to say nothing of their bypassing the "First Four" games, serve as shorthand for the main criticisms of this year's tournament field. They are schools with long histories and name recognition, and they are from sexy conferences. They have every advantage, from scheduling to national exposure, over the two teams most believe should have gotten in over them: Temple and Colorado State.

They were the last two out, according to the committee. For Temple, it was Wyoming's upset win of San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament final that did it. The favored Aztecs stole the at-large bid that would have been the Owls'. According to The Coloradoan, the committee pitted Colorado State against Boise State in a side-by-side comparison for a spot in a play-in game. In both cases, it was the have-nots competing against each other for seats at the big table.

"It looks like the power conferences - the power five as it were - seemed to get a large part of the attention," Temple coach Fran Dunphy mused. "I will say that."

"I don't want to say something that I'm going to regret," offered up CSU's Larry Eustachy.


It's not just sour grapes; the selections were as lopsided as they felt. This season's bracket is dominated by the Power Five conferences and the Big East, with those six conferences accounting for more than half the 68-team field, and weighted at the top:


Committee chairman Scott Barnes explained UCLA's inclusion:

"We felt they were gaining steam," Barnes said. "They did have a good strength of schedule. They were playing better against tough competition. An example is the last game against Arizona [a 70-64 loss in the Pac-12 semifinals]. I think the eye test was also a plus in putting them in the field."


And of Texas, which went 8-10 in the Big 12: "Their strength of schedule was very good and probably the determining factor."

But that is the greatest benefit to being from one of the big conferences—just by dint of conference play, you're going to get a ton of games against other future tournament teams. The Power Five and Big East teams get to fatten up on both big wins and "quality losses." Their resumés look better by default.


And whether that fools the committee or not, they love large schools with devoted fans that are spread all around the country, who travel well and spend money. Bracketology realpolitik isn't so complicated.

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