A conversation with the chair

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The “selection committee chairman” interview is one of those Q-and-As worth putting into a Q-and-A context, especially since it’s of some interest for a day or two.

I chatted with Bucknell’s Tim Pavlechko amid the usual flurry of Selection Sunday calls last night. As usual, he was patient in going through all the relevant scenarios.

(It probably didn’t hurt that he was an hour from home; props to the NCAA for finally having the sense to move a committee meeting of mostly East Coast administrators and coaches from Indianapolis to somewhere more convenient – in this case, College Park).

Time was limited, so here’s a few exchanges from the conversation:

PS: Was this a field that was easier than usual to fill out, or did you guys have to really grapple with these decisions as much as other years?

TP: I think no matter what, when you get down to two or three sports and six or seven teams – and that’s where you’re talking about so many variables – you were splitting hairs because so many teams beat each other. It wasn’t a clear-cut situation.

You’ve got to look at all 15 or 13 games and see what their body of work throughout the season was. This was a year all those teams at the top beat up on each other. Then you had some conferences that were very strong, maybe even a conference that was stronger than last year, maybe one that wasn’t having a strong a season as last year. It was just a difficult process. I think it’s difficult having to pick that ninth at-large team. You have so many good teams that put a case toward it. You have to dive into everything.

PS: From the seeding to the selection, it appears very consistent that quality victories were a real difference-maker. Was rewarding teams with quality wins a priority in the committee room?

TP: I think when we got to clumps of teams and evaluated everything, strength of schedule was always going to be a factor, and those quality wins are an indicator of strength of schedule. It’s all dictated off the RPI and looking at that. Winning games was the result that was most important…

If you look at our selection criteria, it’s not like it’s one thing. Otherwise, we would never have to meet. It’d be ‘Here’s the RPI, run it and be done.’ That’s not what it is. Here are all these factors that we’re looking for and asking why one team is different from another team. They’re all 12-2 and 13-3, and it’s a matter of getting down to details.

We had the results against the RPI – quality wins 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15. That’s an indicator of what your strength of schedule is. When it came down and there were tough decisions on teams. strength of schedule was also used. It’s been consistently applied the years I’ve been on the committee and before I was on the committee.

PS: Virginia, Duke and Syracuse all had a claim on the No. 1 seed, and Virginia got it. How did that decision come about?

TP: I think you certainly had the head-to-head in there. If you look at the scope of the season, the resuults from start to finish, looking at the very similar strength of schedule, very similar quality wins and knowing what some of their losses were, that was ultimately what the committee came out of it with. Because of the scope of their work, Virginia gets the No. 1.

PS: The last spot in the field looks like it was either Brown or Loyola, with Brown getting the nod. How did you guys arrive at that decision?

TP: There were some very deserving teams. Certainly those teams on the bubble when we got down to that final spot – there was a group, teams got put on the board and ake off the board. Loyola, they had a great year. Played a lot of close games, and had a good strength of schedule. But you also see when you start looking into the wins and those results, where were they? That in the end probably hurt them. They controlled their own destiny with the possibility of an automatic berth. That’s not to take away from Loyola. They are a very deserving team.

Based upon nine at-large spots available, some of the upsets that went on in conference tournaments, it certainly narrowed that field for someone that was on the bubble and couldn’t get in. My hat goes off to Loyola. We had some tough decisions to make.

PS: It would seem you guys really wanted to limit extensive travel, with only one flight (Maryland-to-Notre Dame) set up for the first round.

TP: The NCAA really emphasized fiscal responsibility in this economic time. I know the committee, they were very comfortable with this bracket and the assignment of seeds for fitting our criteria – not putting conference members together in the first round and not having rematches of games they played last weekend. In terms of the balance of the bracket and how it’s seeded, we’re pleased. I think it will lead to some great games this weekend.

Patrick Stevens

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