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February 9, 2010

Dan Guerrero

DAVE WORLOCK: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this afternoon's teleconference with Dan Guerrero, director of athletics at UCLA and the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee for the 2009/'10 season. I want to thank you all for your participation.
Dan, before we take our first question, talk about the selection orientation meeting that's taking place in Indianapolis, which started this morning and continues later in the afternoon, on to the evening, then concludes tomorrow.
DAN GUERRERO: Thank you, David. Good afternoon, everyone. It's a privilege for me to have the opportunity to be with you this afternoon and to visit with you members of the media who spent a considerable amount of time during the course of the year covering college basketball.
Speaking on behalf of the entire committee and the staff with us here in Indianapolis today, I would like to express our appreciation for the work you put in, your coverage, insight, and your various opinions. You help to bring college basketball to the forefront of sports discussion and interest around the country and we're very grateful for that.
As trite as this sounds, it's also a privilege and honor to serve on this committee with a terrific group of professionals, all deeply committed to this process and the men's basketball tournament in general.
There are three new committee members this year. They've joined me and the other members of the committee here in Indianapolis this week. They are Ron Wellman, athletic director at Wake Forest, Doug Fullerton, the commissioner of the Big Sky Conference, and Dan Beebe, the commissioner of the Big 12.
The entire committee spent the morning with the NCAA staff familiarizing themselves, or for those of us returning members refamiliarizing ourselves, with the process and voting software which we will use again next month during the actual selection process.
With that as background I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, given eight hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first six sharpening my axe. Well, the committee has spent the better part of three months sharpening our axes and getting ready to chop down that field to 65 so that this year's tournament once again will be a memorable one.
Seems that every year a prevailing theme or themes emerge or take shape that tend to define the season in terms of what people are discussing around the water coolers. Last year there was a great deal of talk about one particular conference being the best in the history of the game, and everyone wanted to know or speculate how many bids that conference was going to receive last year.
This year many of us think the overarching theme will be parity. There are some exceptional teams out there, as you well know, some pretty good teams, and a lot of good teams, many of whom will be in discussion when we give due diligence by the committee later in March.
I can assure you that based on our discussions to date, this could be one of the most difficult years for the committee. A great number of teams look alike. The next hundred plus games left to be played, actually thousand plus games next to be played, will likely make or break it for several teams under consideration.
I need to make it clear once again, it doesn't matter which conference these teams are members of. We are simply, though there's nothing simple about it, selecting the 34 best at-large teams to join the automatic qualifiers to fill out the tournament field.
Parity will make selection difficult. Parity will making seeding and selecting those last few teams in the field a bear. Extremely challenging for us.
The committee, however, has put and will continue to put the time in to make the best decisions possible.
Coach John Wooden said, Never mistake activity for achievement. I can assure you, there is no question that the committee's activity has all been with a true sense of purpose and there's no question we will be completely prepared when we enter the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis next month.
I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to the NCAA staff whose energy, enthusiasm and love for this event just spills over to all of us involved in this process. They provide us with a tool kit necessary to do our jobs and they are always available to us for guidance and assistance. Once again, their commitment to this enterprise is greatly appreciated by all of us.
Finally, the committee is aware that several writers will participate in the annual mock selection exercise at the end of the week. We wish all of those participants the best of luck and hope they enjoy the process and find the session informative and fun.
DAVE WORLOCK: Thank you very much, Dan. We'll go ahead and get started with the first of our callers.

Q. Is there one criteria you use more than the others? Obviously a composite is taken into account, but are there one or two things you look at more than anything else?
DAN GUERRERO: Certainly wins has a significant bearing on decisions we make. When I talked about the toolkit that we received, it allows us the opportunity to evaluate a broad number of criteria.
With 10 individuals on the committee, all of them doing a subjective analysis of this criteria, there may not be necessarily one or two items that come to the forefront.
The bottom line and really the most important thing is that we spend a lot of time watching games. Even though we have a lot of quantitative material available to us, in every way, shape or form we watch those basketball games with the mindset of picking those 34 best teams. In some respects, there's nothing better than the eyeball test.

Q. Some teams are on TV more than others. Typically the bigger conference schools are on more. How do you weight that if you see a certain team in the ACC or Big-10 more than a team that's in a smaller conference?
DAN GUERRERO: Certainly new media gives us an opportunity to see basketball games in a number of various platforms. And we take advantage of all of those, whether it's ESPN Full Court, whether it's watching games over the network, whether we're watching games being streamed, or on the road going to various venues and watching games. The fact that there are 10 of us involved in this process gives us an opportunity to really go throughout the country, evaluate the landscape. We feel we have a pretty good handle on what those teams are doing out there.

Q. Dan, I want to talk a little bit about name brand recognition. Teams with a deep history of tournament success are struggling right now. How does their past success in the tournament factor into the decision-making process?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, certainly there are a lot of great teams, outstanding conferences throughout the country. There's a great deal of tradition and history tied up with many of those entities.
However, the committee is looking at each team this year in the context of what they're doing this year. There is no question that some teams have not performed to their traditional or typical standard. But that's not an issue for us. We are looking at the very best teams that we can possibly get into this field irrespective of what colors they wear, what kind of history they have, what trophies they've won in the past, what their mascots look like, whatever. We're looking for the best basketball teams. Doesn't matter where they're from.

Q. Because of the ridiculous amount of snow in this area, the Maryland/Virginia game scheduled for tomorrow has been moved. It's putting Maryland in a situation where they're going to have to play three games during a five-day stretch. I'm wondering how much does the committee look at extenuating circumstances regarding scheduling matters when you evaluate how teams perform in games?
DAN GUERRERO: You know, there are a number of things that come up that would require our attention. This would be one of them, there's no question about that. In addition to a circumstance like this, you know, as you well know, we look at various teams and injuries that might impact their rosters. You may have situations where players are suspended for whatever reason. There may be situations where unique circumstances might factor into the outcome of a game. All of those are the kinds of things that we will take into consideration and evaluate as we make decisions on who makes the field.

Q. Last year there were a couple of teams that were certainly powerhouses. One of those ended up winning the national title. This year while there are some very good teams, there seems to be more parity, a number of good but not great teams. How does that affect the committee's decision? Are there more teams that need to be considered during the selection process?
DAN GUERRERO: Just based on our interaction to this point, I believe the committee would agree that this is going to be a very, very difficult and challenging process. We certainly understand that there are a number of games that are left to be played within the next month or so. You might see some teams sort of separate themselves from the pack. But, nevertheless, we anticipate that there will be a pack.
So it's incumbent upon us to make certain we look at every possible criteria, see as many games that we possibly can, and in the end make those decisions we feel are the best decisions that this committee can possibly make.

Q. Has the RPI been de-emphasized at all in recent years?
DAN GUERRERO: No, the RPI continues to be one of the criteria we evaluate. The conference RPI is something that we as a committee decided to remove from the equation. It's no longer on the team sheet. We don't look at conference affiliation. That is not a factor for us.
But, once again, the RPI is indicative of the measure of several things that are very, very important to the committee. So we will certainly take that into consideration as we make our decisions.

Q. Although conference affiliation is not one of the criteria obviously, and you don't base anything on how many teams a particular league gets, there are people out there who think you do or think it goes through individual thought processes possibly. Is there anything you do or can do to make that clear, that it's not an issue, because a lot of people still think it is?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, going back to last year and the Mike Slive mantra, if you will, what was still important to us is the three Ws and the H: who you played, which of course is relative to the quality of the competition; where you played, at home, away, neutral sites; with whom did you play, was everyone healthy, did you have people that were suspended anywhere along the way; and then of course how you did.
As we look at each and every team, we look at them on their own individual merits. Obviously the quality of competition certainly comes into the fray. If, in fact, a particular team plays in a conference where there are a lot of good teams, then certainly that has a factor, but it's not necessarily reflective of an entire season because we're still looking at the body of work. There are a number of teams that play outstanding schedules in non-conference, as well.
Anyone who has actually been on the mock selection exercise, anyone who has had the opportunity to do that, would certainly understand where all those factors come into play as we deliberate and make those decisions.
DAVE WORLOCK: Thank you to everyone for listening this afternoon. We appreciate your time and your interest in Division I men's college basketball. Again, Dan will be available the Wednesday at 11 a.m. EST prior to Selection Sunday. We'll send a reminder out shortly before that time and hope that you will participate in the call again. Thanks to everyone and have a great afternoon.

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