There’s no perfect bracket, but it’s not for lack of effort on NCAA tournament selection committee’s part

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Those of us fortunate enough to have participated in the NCAA Mock Selection process learned firsthand that there’s no such thing as a perfect bracket.  Even with 37 at-large bids available, there’s always team No. 38.  You can’t escape tough decisions.

Committee Chair Jeff Hathaway said he and his fellow Selection Committee members realize the scrutiny involved with putting together what we know as March Madness.  It’s one reason why the NCAA has made the process more transparent in recent years.  The Mock Selection exercise is just one example.  This year, the NCAA’s official RPI, Team Sheets, and Nitty Gritty reports are available online at  Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can view the same reports and data used by committee members.  You can even find the Principles and Procedures for Establishing the bracket at the NCAA site.

Here are few quick notes from Friday (click here for Thursday’s notes):

Seeding the Field of 68 isn’t completed until all 68 teams are selected.  Team A doesn’t have be placed as an 11 or 12 seed just because it was one of the final at-large teams selected.  As “scrubbing” of teams is completed, the s-curve changes.  During our mock exercise, we ultimately moved a few teams around on the s-curve before we began placing them into the bracket.  NCAA team members said this is a common occurrence.  Teams move up or down during the final rankings, and sometimes those teams are moved a seed line to accommodate the bracketing process.

Greg Shaheen of the NCAA said the Selection Committee often spends up to 40 hours “scrubbing” teams during the seeding process.  You may disagree with where a team ends up, but it’s not because every team wasn’t thoroughly evaluated.  As a reference, we spent about an hour and a half “scrubbing” through the seed lines.

A group of committee members is assigned specifically to the bottom quadrant (Seeds 13-16).  Although 13-16 seeds are often automatic qualifiers, Hathaway stressed that it’s important for every team to be evaluated and seeded correctly.

Finalizing the Mock Bracket …

We opened the day by selecting (by vote) the final at-large teams.  Due to lengthy discussions, this process took almost an hour.  Ultimately, our last four at-large teams were: Alabama, Illinois, Seton Hall, and Arizona.  Xavier would have been the first team out had the Musketeers not won the Atlantic 10 mock tournament.  Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee St, and NC State ended up as teams that just missed.  The Bearcats’ No. 330-ranked non-conference schedule was discussed at length, and the voting process eliminated them.

In our bracket, the First Four games at Dayton were: Alabama vs. Illinois, Seton Hall vs. Arizona, Mississippi Valley State vs. Stony Brook, SE Missouri State vs. UT-San Antonio.  The Alabama-Illinois winner was slotted into the 10-seed line in the West Region.  The Arizona-Seton Hall winner was slotted in as the 12-seed in the Midwest.  Bracketing conflicts caused both to move one seed line in each direction (both were set as true 11 seeds).   As a side note, had Dayton been among the First Four teams, the Flyers would have played on their home floor.

Our final bracket2012 Media Mock 2.17.2012

Our s-curve rankings2012 Media Mock Seed List 2.17.2012

Keep in mind, we selected and seeded teams based on results through Wednesday (Feb. 15).  We then made adjustments based on mock tournament results.  For example, Mississippi State won the SEC Tournament, North Carolina won the ACC, BYU won the West Coast, and San Diego State won the Mountain West.  We tried to reflect these outcomes into our decisions.  With time constraints, however, we had to move quickly, so we didn’t have the same time as actual committee members.

Kentucky, Syracuse, and Missouri were clear No. 1 seeds and were easily placed in spots one to three on the s-curve.  Then it got tricky.  Ultimately, we voted Ohio State into the four spot, moving them into the final No. 1 seed position.  During bracketing, we slotted Kentucky to the South Region because the mileage between difference between Lexington and St. Louis was minimal (STL was a little closer), and Atlanta is a natural region for UK.  Those things are all taken into account.  Syracuse was next, and obviously went East.  Missouri to St. Louis was a no-brainer.  As an interesting sidebar, it was noted that had Duke been slotted South, it could have set up a possible rematch with Kentucky in a Regional Final exactly 20 years after the legendary game in New Jersey.  Had it happened, it would have been a product of the process, not something that was planned.  We placed North Carolina there because UNC had first choice on the s-curve and we chose geographic location (Atlanta) over the true s-curve (East).  Hathaway said that would have generated a lengthy discussion during the actual process.  We simply didn’t have the time.

That same process continued as we filled out the bracket.  Surprisingly, it went smoothly despite the need to move a few teams one line to meet requirements.

Whether you agree with our results isn’t important.  The goal was to demonstrate how the process works, without prejudice or pretense.  We were afforded the same tools and techniques.  Everyone left with a new appreciation for what transpires in Indianapolis each March.

If nothing else, remember this: the men and women charged with selecting, seeding, and bracketing the NCAA tournament take their job seriously.  They live and breathe basketball from November through March (actually much longer).  They watch hundreds of games.  They toggle through data for hours on end.  You may or may not agree with every decision.  Then again, there’s no such thing as a perfect bracket.

Follow Dave on Twitter @BracketguyDave.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.