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February 11, 2015

Scott Barnes

DAVID WORLOCK: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us for this afternoon's media teleconference with Scott Barnes, the director of athletics at Utah State University and the chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee for the 201415 season. We want to remind you before we get started that a transcript will be available, and we will email that out as soon as we can after the conclusion of this afternoon's call. At this point I'd like to turn it over to Scott, and he'll have some opening remarks before we take some questions.

SCOTT BARNES: Thank you, Dave, and thank you all for joining us today. It is really an exciting time, less than 30 days away from moving this excellent tournament forward, and yet a somber day, as well, and week if I may, just acknowledge the passing of obviously Dean Smith and most recently today Jerry Tarkanian, both giants in our game, both highly respected by their peers, and both national championship winners in our tournament. Just an acknowledgment of their great contribution to this game that we all love. We are here in Indianapolis, and these next couple days really serves for us to sharpen our saw, if you will, as it relates to the process of selection and bracketing. This is an orientation session to refine the skills of the current and veteran committee members as well as getting and indoctrinating our new committee members in the process. I'd like to acknowledge our new committee members at this time: Janet Cone is the athletic director at UNC Asheville; Tom Holmoe, the athletic director of BYU; and Bernard Muir, the athletic director at Stanford. A bit of a new perspective for Bernard inasmuch as he was actually on the NCAA staff at one time, but believe me, the process has changed greatly since he was on board as a staff member. Before I get to questions, I'd like to make a couple comments and start with this idea of the state of the game. As we think about where college basketball is going, know that this committee is very attune to the stakeholders, including fan interest, officiating playing rules, statistical trends, and anything else surrounding our sport. We're in communication on a regular basis with bodies such as the NABC, our playing rules committee, as well, and others to address issues along the way. There have been a lot of conversations about the state of the game. We continue to work on that. We have had summits, rules summits that have included media led by Belmont head coach Rick Byrd, who chairs the rules committee. We did that last year in the month of May. We'll do it again coming up this year, as well, to create that open dialogue. Obviously this is a rules year where new rules can be put into place moving forward. There will also be a trial session, if you will, experimental rules in the NIT tournament this year, including the 30second clock and the fourfoot arch. We are looking forward to finding ways to improve the game. The other thing I'd like to say, and obviously being the chair of the men's basketball committee it may be easy for me to say that we're looking at 333 eligible teams, but honestly I can tell you that the margin for error here in terms of the selection process, the difficulty in terms of the parity that's out there is probably as great as I've seen in my five years here. Typically we look at teams under consideration. There might be a bucket of 30 teams under consideration that's swelled to approximately 50, give and take, during the week last year, and I would expect that to be very similar this year as we look at the field and what's going on and as we think about what may happen over the course of the next few weeks as we move that forward. With that, I'd just like to take this opportunity to also address that we do have a focus on a number of metrics, RPI and many others, that the committee spends a lot of time and really uses their tools and their tool kit as we move forward. We've got a great meeting today and beginning to talk about teams again for the second time this year. It's gone very well, very productive meetings. We're right in the middle of that process. With that I'd like to turn it over for any questions.

Q. I just wanted to ask, Virginia and VCU, two teams pretty high on RPIs, both have injury problems right now. Virginia has lost Justin Anderson for four to six weeks, VCU has lost the starting point guard, Briante Weber, for the season, and their other senior leader, Treveon Graham, is nursing a high ankle sprain. What impact will those injuries have on seedings for those teams as you put this thing together?
SCOTT BARNES: Appreciate the question. First, obviously our heart goes on to those studentathletes who have worked so hard to put themselves in the position they're in and end up being injured. Part of the game, but it is something that we all feel bad about. As it relates to the impact that those injuries have, the thing that makes this men's basketball committee work so well is we have 10 individuals that bring a different perspective and a way to get at who the very best teams are. As it relates to injury, certainly we'll all look at this. It is a factor. There is no question. May be looked at a little bit differently from each committee member, and it'll be looked at a little bit differently depending on the length of time, whether a player is out all year, as an example in Briante Weber's case, being out the entire season, obviously there's a pattern here between now and the end of the year that we'll be able to assess. Those injuries that occur where players come back in, obviously it's a bit of a moving target. But suffice it to say, whether a player is out for injury, eligibility reasons, suspension, it plays a factor in our committee's decisions.

Q. I was just wondering, what y'all made or observed from the college football selection process leading up to their final selections, will it in any way influence the work you guys are doing during this meeting or any subsequent meetings as far as whether you'll do any significant dry runs of a bracket or a ranking or any other ideas you may have gleaned from that?
SCOTT BARNES: I appreciate the question. As you can imagine, our committee has deliberated on that topic, and have watched very closely the football committee's work. Certainly there are some parallels. But as it relates to some of the practices of the football committee, in particular a weekly television show with rankings, as we've talked about in this committee, it's not quite the same fit, and what I mean by that is certainly the numbers are different, and in speaking of numbers, both in number of teams and games that are played. You think about the football polls over a long period of time, it's something that fans have waited for every week, one game a week, both those rankings and those polls are probably a bit more of a priority in a way than the men's basketball poll in this way. There may be multiple games, three, maybe even more games in a week's time between those rankings. When you think about it overall and you think about what we're trying to accomplish, we are continually trying to provide more information to be transparent, to get better at the jobs we do as committee members. I don't think a weekly rankings show is necessarily the way to go. We're going to spend the summer, though, in talking more about what we might bring forward next year, whether it's an extended show, maybe it's an opportunity sometime after the mock selection. Who knows. It's yet to be determined. It is on our mind. We are a bit of a different animal, but we'll continue to look at that intently moving forward.

Q. Dan Gavitt has talked recently about the problem with the shortage of charter planes affecting travel for the NCAA Tournament. I was just wondering if either this year or in future years there will be any consideration to keeping teams closer to home to alleviate those troubles?
SCOTT BARNES: I appreciate the question. It's certainly on our minds, and particularly in this environment where it's even more difficult than ever to get charter planes and to really put this together. We've talked a lot about taking measures that would provide just a better experience for our studentathletes in that regard. Certainly that comes in the time frame when teams might have to leave their event. That really is on the minds of the committee. Some measures have been put in place to deal with that. We absolutely have to do more in that regard.

Q. As I'm sure you know, Kentucky beat Kansas by 32 points in November, and yet Kansas is No. 1 in RPI, Kentucky is No. 2, and of course Kentucky is undefeated. What do you make of that, and what does that say about the RPI?
SCOTT BARNES: Well, it's a really good question, and again, when we think about all the tools in our toolkit, the metrics that we use, RPI is simply one of those. You know, there's a good example, even right now as we're measuring and looking at teams as an example, an RPI rating in one case of one team is 9, the Sagarin rating is a 23. There's a 14point differential in that. We use all the collective data we have at our disposal to make the most informed decisions we can, and certainly beyond that the eyeball test and all that we have at our disposal to make the very best decisions as it relates to your question.

Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit just about the Mountain West in particular. Obviously you're a little familiar. What does the Mountain West at large look like right now? When you look at RPIs and stuff, there could be maybe two teams in there, but most people are saying only one. How do you see that playing out down the stretch here?
SCOTT BARNES: Well, that's a hard thing. We don't right now comment specifically on teams, but I'll tell you that  and it's in other situations. There are quality teams in the Mountain West vying. A lot of teams, when you have a number of quality teams, they tend to beat each other up along the way. The Mountain West is a strong conference. Obviously it's not about what was done and how many teams were in it a year ago or before, it's about what's going on lately, and as we've talked there are injuries on some of those key teams, as well. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out here in the next few weeks. Again, a quality conference.

Q. And another quick part of that, does it help or hurt the Mountain West that you cannot be part of those discussions, that you have to excuse yourself when those teams are discussed?
SCOTT BARNES: Yes, it is, you're exactly right, and whether we're wearing our Utah State gear or not or anything else, we can't vote for our teams, so we aren't voting for teams  our specific teams, or as conference commissioners our committee members can't vote for our teams. Factual information can be provided on teams, and that is the extent of it.

Q. I cover the Southeastern Conference, and they've made a point of saying that they feel like their quality of basketball is better this year, and they have a better chance of getting more teams in. And one thing they cite is tougher schedules, tougher nonconference schedules. I'm wondering how much weight the committee puts on tougher schedules as opposed to actually winning games in a tougher schedule.
SCOTT BARNES: Very good question, and they have. To acknowledge, they've worked very hard to improve their nonconference, as an example, strength of schedule and who their members are playing, and that has risen the level of strength in terms of nonconference and overall strength of schedule. As it relates to your question about having  actually can you repeat the second part of that question?

Q. I guess I'm wondering, it's one thing to play a tougher schedule and it's another thing to actually win games against tougher schedules. How much credit should a team get for simply just playing a tougher schedule?
SCOTT BARNES: Yeah, and again, it goes back to who you play, when you play, and what you do. So as you think about that, if a program hypothetically is loaded up on lower strength teams and won a lot of games compared to a program that's tried to schedule stronger games and won a handful of those, those things are factored in. They're measured against each other, and depending on the circumstances, obviously, but both are considered. Wins are important, and wins against quality teams are important.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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