The Process of Selecting Tournament Teams

The Process of Selecting Tournament Teams

In just 6 days, the National College Basketball tournament will start. Before any teams book their flights and start giving out student section tickets, they have to participate in their particular conference tournament.

There will be thirty-two winners from each conference that will receive an automatic bid into the pool of sixty-eight teams. For example, 2 years ago Holy Cross University went into the Patriot League championship with a 13-19 record with, what looked like, no hope to go to the tourney. They ended up beating Lehigh in the championship game to earn an automatic bid in the tournament, their first since 2007.

There are currently ten members on the men’s selection committee board that selects teams into the tourney, and all of them are athletic directors at various universities around the country. The selection committee only selects thirty-six teams who receive at-large bids to go to the tourney. The committee can select any number of teams from the ACC, American Athletic, A-10, Big-12, Big East, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12, or the SEC. Many of these team will not know if they made the tournament until March 12th which is selection Sunday where the committee selects the final thirty-six teams.

The magic number of wins for a team to make the tournament is twenty or more, but RPI and BPI often determines your fate on selection Sunday. The Rating Percentage Index (RPI) is a tool the committee uses to rank teams based on their strength of schedule, wins and losses. Along with the RPI, the Basketball Power Index (BPI) is a team rating system that accounts for the pace of play, final score, site, key players, and strength of opponent. It is said to be the best way to predict the team’s performance going forward. During selection Sunday the committee places all teams into four regions: West, East, South, and Midwest. Until 1998, the regions were different the South region was once the Mideast then in 1985 changed to the Southeast. Each region has at least sixteen teams and higher seeded teams are closer to home. Although the higher seeded teams technically play home games, they still have a short drive away from campus, because no team gets the advantage of playing on their home floor. For example, in 2002, the University of Pittsburgh played their first and second round games in Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena, which is not their home floor.

Throughout the seeding process, there are various rules, such as the top three teams from each conference must be in different regions, the committee tries to seed teams from the same conference in different regions so if they happen to match up they can play each other in the regional final. The committee also puts non-basketball factors into consideration during the seeding process. In 2003, BYU, a latter-day saint school that has a strict policy about not playing games on Sundays, was accidentally put into a region where they would be forced to play a game on Sunday if they advanced to the regional finals. The NCAA said it would change their region if they won their first two games and went to the regional semifinals. The NCAA final four will start March 31st  and championship game will be on April 2nd in San Antonio Texas. The tournament is full of upsets and Cinderella stories, which team will be victorious when the dust settles, only time will tell when the madness starts?


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One thought on “The Process of Selecting Tournament Teams

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  1. Hey, Tobias, I really enjoyed this. March Madness is my favorite. Some of the finer points of selecting the field haven’t crossed my mind, like spreading out the top 3 teams from each conference. Good work.


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