JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (July 21, 2011) – Twice a year the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament selection committee invites coaches, conference administrators, and members from the WBCA to participate in a “Mock Selection.” In February and July these selected individuals gather at the NCAA Headquarters, located in Indianapolis, and get an inside look at how teams are selected, seeded, and bracketed for the NCAA Tournament. This past weekend, head ETSU women’s basketball coach Karen Kemp had the privilege to be one of 16 Division I Coaches selected to join this group and get a better understanding of how this process works. After two long days and many hours of deliberation, the group completed the “mock bracket” and took away useful ideas which can be implemented at their respective campuses and conference offices.
After returning from Indianapolis, coach Kemp had the time to sit down and share her experiences from the selection process. Below are her responses to selected questions.
Coach, please talk about your experience participating in the 2011 NCAA Mock Selection exercise this past weekend in Indianapolis?
Attending the mock selection was a very useful exercise. I am glad I was selected to attend because I was able to learn how the tournament field is made up and see what pieces of information the committee members look at when determining the selection, seeding, and bracketing of teams.
This gave me a greater appreciation of what the committee has to go through during the year and when making the selections, seeding, and bracketing in March. I now have a better understanding after this past weekend of what we need to do in order to get a better seed – or eventually – get an at-large seed from our conference.
We had 16 Division I coaches, nine members from conference offices, and staff from the WBCA all be a part of this process. One thing I was most impressed with was how the representatives from BCS conferences were not trying to put all the focus on the major programs; they were actually a big proponent of mid-major programs getting serious consideration. Another piece of information I was fascinated with was when the ten committee members told us they watch over 150 games during the year – including video streaming of teams from mid-major programs. The committee members told us they put more emphasis on the games they watch, than the stats they look at on paper. In addition, I am a member of the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee, and the ten selection members told me they actually value our opinions more than some other numbers, since we are watching these teams up close.
Overall, I didn’t know what to expect as I was going into this process, but in the end, it was very, very, very beneficial to me. It was a great experience to learn and see what goes into the selection process, and it was an educational exercise. I enjoyed being part of the weekend’s activities, and I hope I can share some of this information with the conference and coaches in our league so they know what they need to do in order to get a stronger seed.
What was the biggest piece of information you took away from this selection process?
How the committee looks more at a team’s strength of schedule and the SOS from non-conference play. They look more into the non-conference SOS because this is the one thing we as coaches have control over when building our schedule. The committee wants us as mid-majors to not only schedule the BCS teams, but also play top mid-major programs. This was most intriguing to me because I learned the committee looks into these numbers the most when highlighting a team’s resume.
Prior to this weekend, I always thought we had to schedule the top teams in the country, but that’s not really what the committee wants to see. Typically, I was under the impression the committee leaned more to the RPI, but was completely wrong, as they look more into the non-conference strength of schedule and how a team did during the year.
Another misconception the general public makes is they think the committee looks more into the conference a team plays in, but actually it’s more about the “team.” Overall, the committee looks at their resume/body of work and a team with 18 wins against wins can be looked at as a stronger fit than a team with 25-plus victories, because that team with 18 wins has a stronger non-conference SOS.
Will you change your scheduling patterns now after attending the exercise?
I think the way we scheduled in the past has definitely helped us. The first year we made the NCAA Tournament we beat Alabama, and the following year we won at Kentucky. I really believe those wins and how we played a tough schedule, helped us not be a 16 seed when it came selection time. Yes, we still want to play the BCS teams, but we also need to play the mid-majors who continuously make the NCAAs and beat them. For example, this year we play MTSU at home, and we always play Chattanooga – these two programs have rich NCAA Tournament tradition. The committee looks at the teams who schedule those opponents, as well as look at how they fared against them. In the end, that’s the difference between being a 14 seed and a 16 seed.
My goal now is to play more high mid-majors in the years ahead instead of playing four high BCS schools like we did last year. I am going to try to schedule two BCS schools, and then try to schedule more of the top mid-major programs. I do feel like we have done that in the recent years, so hopefully we can continue with this process. Hopefully, this season with the preseason WNIT game against Tennessee Tech, playing MTSU, Chattanooga, and Appalachian State is placing us in the right direction. However, I now have a better understanding of which teams I need to schedule.
Typically, the talk is if a team has a strong RPI, then they will be a “lock” for the tournament. How much of a factor does RPI play in the committee’s minds when determining a bubble team?
Prior to attending this mock selection, I thought having a strong RPI would make a difference between getting into the tournament or being left out – now I understand this is not a big factor. The way the committee described it was, they look at the entire body of the season and not necessarily one team having a better RPI than another. It deals more with which team played a stronger non-conference schedule and how they fared. When I was on the “mock” committee, I looked more at SOS, non-conference SOS, and wins and losses, than I did at RPI. The other thing the committee doesn’t really lean heavily on are good wins versus bad losses. Instead, they put more emphasis on a team’s last 12 games and weigh more on road wins than home wins.
How important does the committee look at travel when it comes to bracketing teams in the tournament?
This was an interesting topic as the committee members make travel a factor when bracketing teams.
For example, if we were sending a team from the East all the way out West, the committee would then take a step back and see how they can make it work to send that team to a closer site where they can bus. The committee also tries to see if they can keep a team closer to home so they can have fans travel and support their team. If we sent someone from the East to West the fans couldn’t travel – so the committee looks at sites and where they place a team in regards to location. However, a team’s seed can change due to travel, so their fans would have the opportunity to travel and support that team. The other thing we had to pay attention to was host teams, because they were set to play in a specific region, while teams in the same conference cannot meet until the Regional Final – unless a conference has nine or more teams in the tournament.
How difficult was the process and would you ever like to be on the selection committee?
This was a very difficult process, but I did learn a lot and took away a lot of useful information.
I want to commend those ten committee members because this was a long and stressful process. Before this meeting, I never understood how much time and commitment was put into the selection process; however, I now have more appreciation for those ten members than I ever did in the past. In the end, it was an amazing experience and I respect those members on the committee, but I would never want to be in on the selection process.
I do recommend attending this “mock” selection if it’s offered to any coach or conference representative across the country because there are so many important things to take away from this experience.
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