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March 10, 2010

Dan Guerrero

DAVE WORLOCK: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to today's teleconference with Dan Guerrero, director of athletics at UCLA and chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee. We want to thank everyone for joining us today live from the selection room at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis as Dan and the rest of the committee soon begin the five-day process of seeding, selecting and bracketing teams for the 2010 Championship.
Dan, we're winding down what many agree has been a unique season. Teams ranked in the top 10 at the start of the season may not make the NCAA tournament. Teams that were unranked in November reached the top five in the polls. In the same week, several teams had jaw-dropping wins and head-scratching losses.
In the end the committee's faced with the job of evaluating a deep pool of teams that will surely be under consideration as the week progresses.
Can you talk about how this year stands out from the previous four years that you served as a member on the committee:
DAN GUERRERO: Good morning, David, and all of you in the media.
There's no doubt the committee will be faced with difficult challenges this year. This afternoon we will be submitting our initial ballots that will place those first group of teams into the field.
I'll be very interested to see what that number is. If you go back over the last four years, that number has ranged anywhere from 18 to maybe 26. I'm not sure what it will be this year. If it's on the lower end, it's likely there will be a greater number of teams that will be under consideration. If it's on the higher end, obviously teams under consideration may be just slightly lower than what we've seen in the past. Nevertheless, it's going to require us to really dig deep.
As trite as this sounds, there's a lot of parity across the country; a lot of teams that look alike. We will need to dig deep with all the nitty-gritty, all the information that we've been able to garner over the course of the season, both by watching games in person, on television, and of course by talking to each other. It's part of the process of the dialogue that will continue throughout this entire week that will allow us to get our work done.
We understand why we're here: to make the tough decisions and ultimately come up to a consensus with the 34 best at-large teams in the country. Despite the difficult deliberations we have before us, we feel good about where we are. We're ready to discuss understand evaluate these teams and I know that we're up for the challenge.
As I said, it's been an interesting season, arguably one of the toughest during my tenure on the committee. But we know that in the end we'll be very pleased with the decisions that we make. We know that it will fuel a lot of discussion among the fan base throughout the country, and that's good. That's great for college basketball.
We have been entrusted in placing the field of 65 that will in the end create a masterpiece, that's what we believe, because it has been a great, great tournament throughout the years and it's no doubt it will be a great tournament this year.
With that I'm ready to take any questions.

Q. Dan, most people doing brackets are finding it hard to find 34 worthy at-large teams. I am sure in your position you have to be diplomatic. Can you compare the quality of the teams on the fence and is that going to make it easier or tougher?
DAN GUERRERO: The issue of quality of teams is always a subjective question, as you know. If you're comparing one year to the next, that really isn't a factor for us.
We believe that any team in the field has pros and cons. They have strengths that we'll need to be able to assess, and certainly every team might have some weaknesses as well. There's no perfect team out there. Every team has some blemishes.
Our charge as I indicated earlier is to pick the 34 best. It's the 34 best that are in the field this year. Of all the 300-plus teams we have to assess and evaluate, we know there are a number of teams out there that have had excellent seasons. And I believe that the field of teams we have to select from will be very representative of the quality that you see throughout the country.

Q. Dan, at some point after this tournament, this committee may be charged with weighing the merits of expanding the field, perhaps by a lot. Could you be honest. Are there any free moments when you go back to your room potentially after a day of deliberations, will you be weighing the merits of what kind of teams you're looking at, whether a much larger field would be too loose, whether you would be looking at teams you wouldn't be comfortable with from a competitive standpoint? Will that be an undercurrent in any way in your private thoughts and other committee members' private thoughts for down the road?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, let me be perfectly honest. I believe that the discussion of expansion is sort of an evergreen topic, something that has always come to the forefront of the committee over the years. It's certainly heated up in present times.
It will have absolutely no impact on the discussion this weekend from the committee. It's really irrelevant to what our charge is. Our charge, of course, is to select and seed and bracket this tournament, and that's completely where our focus will be.

Q. I didn't mean applying it in any way to your deliberations now. I just meant privately thinking, Okay, if we were looking at 96, for example, would we be comfortable with looking at this many more teams or these kinds of teams, just playing any kind of private 'what ifs'?
DAN GUERRERO: No, privately we're focused on picking the best 34 teams this weekend. I don't think there's anybody in this room - I can't speak for any of the other committee members - but I don't think there's anyone thinking about what might happen in the future.
It's pretty simple. I mean, our charge, as I indicated, is to pick those 34 teams, and I'm being perfectly honest about that.

Q. Another way of asking the question, I guess, that was just asked: How would a 96-team tournament impact the selection process?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, once again, it's very difficult to answer that question right now because we're focused on a 65-team tournament. There needs to be a lot more discussion, a lot more deliberation on what could happen and what might happen.
But it's pure speculation at this point. Frankly, from our perspective, we know what our task at hand is. I'm not trying to dodge the issue in any way, shape or form, but it's not a reality in our world right now, so there's no sense really needing to address it.

Q. If you could comment on how the seeding process works. I know national rankings almost never correspond to the seedings. But with I think as many as eight or nine teams outside the BCS conferences in the top 25, do you think we'll see more so-called mid-majors seeded higher than perhaps we have in previous seasons?
DAN GUERRERO: You know, it's hard to say at this point in time because we haven't really gotten into it. But we'll have a better sense even this afternoon. We're going to submit our initial ballots. Once again, that number of teams that is entered into the field this evening could be anywhere from 18 to 30. You just never know.
I believe that we'll immediately get to the seeding process. We can certainly do that, possibly seed a couple of lines, always knowing that we'll need to scrub those as the week progresses.
You know, we'll have X number of teams in the field by virtue of our initial ballot, and by virtue of those teams that have already made the field as a result of either their automatic qualification status, whether they won the conference tournaments or in the case of Cornell, they're in the field because they won the Ivy League. All those teams will immediately be in the mix and we'll start sorting through the process at that time.
But, you know, every team is viewed independently. We look at the merits of their respective seasons in comparison to the other teams that are in the field. That's how we seed. We don't seed by conference affiliation. We don't select by conference affiliation. So we'll go about our business measuring one team against another.

Q. Dan, I know the committee judges a team by their full body of work throughout the season. How important are the conference tournaments, aside of course from those teams that win them and get an automatic bid that way?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. Conference tournaments are really important because in most cases it determines who gets the AQ for that conference.
But, you know, it's part of the puzzle. There's no question about that. Conference tournaments can enhance a résumé to some degree. But I think it's important to note that when we lock down here on Wednesday, you know, conference tournaments represent about 1% of all the games that are being played during the course of the season. There are over five thousand games played during the course of the year. I think 40 games possibly or around there will be played between now and Sunday.
You know, we need to look at it from that context. We're just as interested in a lot of respects as everyone else across the country, but we can't discount games that have been played during the course of the entire year. Those games are very meaningful as well.

Q. You talked about the initial ballots that you'll be turning in this afternoon. From your experience, how much variance is there from those initial ballots to the final tally?
DAN GUERRERO: Can you clarify that for me?

Q. I guess I'm wondering how reliable are these initial ballots in terms of kind of locking in who is where, who is in, not, and even seeding, doing it now this afternoon to what you come out with on Sunday.
DAN GUERRERO: Okay, I understand.
The initial ballot sets the initial at-large field. The teams we submit into the field this afternoon in that initial ballot are what we consider are no-brainers. These are the teams that we feel are locks, whether they win their AQs or not. In essence, once they're in, they're in. Then we'll be narrowing down the rest of the under-consideration pool for the rest of the week's discussion, and we'll begin to massage the field and put those teams in as the week progresses.

Q. It seems that year to year the committee places varying degrees of emphasis on early-season wins against top-25 and top-50 teams. I'm wondering for you, those early-season wins, do they have less importance because they occurred in November or December?
DAN GUERRERO: You know, as we talk about the whole concept of an entire body of work, obviously a win is a win. Every win is important. Every team's résumé is different. It's certainly one of the factors as we evaluate what that body of work is.
As you well know, there are a number of criteria that are subjective in many ways, but each committee member places a different weight on certain kinds of things. We certainly understand that teams can mature over the season, that there's a learning curve possibly early in the year. During the season a lot of things can happen. You can deal with issues of injuries, a number of things that can affect how a team performs.
It goes back to the old: Who you play, when you play, with whom did you play and how you did. That's something that we still think is very, very important.
As I indicated, the criteria, the number of criteria, can be numerous. Every game counts. The committee members will decide how they want to weigh whatever variables they think are the most important.

Q. How about for you, though? I remember last year Mike Slive made a point of saying, If you discount those November and December wins you're making that an exhibition season, and it's not. Three years ago Gary Walters was, I wouldn't get too carried away with November and December wins. For you, what kind of emphasis is there on those early-season wins?
DAN GUERRERO: Yeah, you know, I agree with Mike in a lot of ways. He's a very wise man. And, of course, so is Gary.
They all count. You can't discount excellent wins. Early in the year you get the opportunity to play non-conference opponents of stature, it allows you an opportunity to measure yourself against other teams in the country. That's why you schedule those games. That's why you play in a lot of those pre-season tournaments, things of that nature. You want to be able to demonstrate, even early on, that you're a quality team.
So you can't discount those wins in late November or December against wins that are occurring within the last month or so.

Q. I know a win is a win and a loss is a loss. Without naming a specific team, how do you view the three-quarter miracle-type win at the buzzer for a bubble team, one of those teams that isn't a no-brainer? Do you say, That team was lucky, not necessarily good, or good and lucky? Or does it even play in that somebody hit a halfcourt shot to win a game?
DAN GUERRERO: Very good question.
You know, obviously a win is a win and a loss is a loss. How they win may come up in discussion. There could be a controversial call at the end of a game. Someone could hit a halftime shot. There could be a clock situation. There could be a number of different things that occur.
Within the context of that, these things happen possibly to a lot of teams throughout the entire country. It cuts both ways. A team that loses at the last moment could claim that they almost won. Of course, you know, the team that wins, it certainly looks good on their résumé.
Ultimately the score is what counts. That gets back to your initial thought, you know, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. But we will discuss those things in the committee discussions.

Q. Purdue has a unique situation with the season-ending ACL injury to Robbie Hummel in late February. By most counts Purdue is in the running for a No. 1 seed. Will it be considered on games it played before his injury or since his injury?
DAN GUERRERO: I won't talk specifically about any one team. Injuries are clearly an issue that occurs and has a bearing on our discussion. You cited one example. We can cite several other examples where injuries have played a factor in possibly how a team performs.
We look at all of the games with the player, without a player. You know, the committee members are very cognizant of what those situations are throughout the country. We track injuries of that type in our conference monitoring reports and we make certain that everyone is aware of when a situation like that occurs.
In any case, as I indicated, we will evaluate that team's performance with the player and without the player. It's very likely that a team can be just as strong or perform in a manner that doesn't require us to make any changes in terms of where we thought a team might be.
But, once again, it is something we will discuss at great length in our meetings.

Q. You mentioned earlier about the early-season wins are still important. A bunch of us gathered in Indianapolis doing a mock NCAA selection exercise. There was a pretty big emphasis on how a team finishes. How important is how a team finishes? Have you had any indication of teams that finish strong do well in the NCAA tournament? There is data out there that says it doesn't really matter.
DAN GUERRERO: Yeah, you know, as you recall, we took the last 12 games off of the team sheet because there was some real concern out there that there was a misconception about how we were evaluating that whole situation, how much weight we were putting on it. Certainly an 11-1 team in one situation versus a 7-5 team in another situation could be evaluated completely differently based on what the quality of competition was. So we didn't want to make that just an absolute item or criteria.
That being said, we all know how teams are finishing. That information is readily available to us. I believe each committee member can weigh how a team finishes as strongly as they want.
You know, I talk about the maturation of teams and things of that nature. Certainly there could be situations where teams are really starting to gel here later in the year, and that might have a bearing on some of the weight that some of the committee members place on any particular team.
In terms of how they do in the tournament in a general sense, that isn't a factor for us to evaluate at this point in time. It's really drilling down on those 34 best teams, those who we feel merit being placed in the pool, and of course how they do in the tournament is unknown.

Q. You said you take 12 games off the team sheet. Can you explain that? What do you mean by that?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, you know, we get team sheets, having gone through the mock selection process, you remember the team sheet that provides the quantitative information we can possibly imagine to evaluate. Well, we had those 12 games actually delineated. It was an absolute criteria that sat in front of us. We just pulled that off. We said, You know what, we no longer need to drill down on that.
That being said, the games are still there. We just don't show the record of the last 12 games.

Q. When did you stop doing that?
DAN GUERRERO: Yeah, we did that last year.

Q. Based on what you just said, could you tell me why you took the last 12 games off the sheet?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, there was an impression out there that if a team finished 11-1, then they should get stronger consideration over a team that finished 7-5. It's very easy for one to assume that that is a real definitive way to evaluate a team's performance. The reality is you can't do that unless you drill down on what the quality of competition was.
Rather than create an impression that the last 12 games was just a really, really important factor for the committee, we said, You know what, let's just take it out. If a committee really wants to drill down on that, they can certainly evaluate that with the information that's on the team sheet as it is.
You know, there are a lot of incorrect impressions regarding, you know, different criterias being most important for the committee's consideration, and that was one of them.

Q. I also had a question about seeding and how strength of schedule can impact that. Obviously I assume it can. But I'm wondering how much the committee takes into consideration any team's, say, good faith effort to schedule quality teams. But it just so happens, say, North Carolina or UCLA or Connecticut, are not the quality of team they generally are.
DAN GUERRERO: Well, I think the committee recognizes what institutions do to try to schedule quality non-conference teams. You know, there's no crystal ball, so you never know how a team is going to be from one year to the next.
You know, do you get Brownie points for that? We certainly look at that just in a general sense as we evaluate what a non-conference schedule is.
But bottom line, you have to evaluate each team on the basis of who they played and how strong that particular team was. We get strength of schedule numbers and things of that nature. We certainly have a very good understanding who the quality teams are during the course of the year. We can evaluate a team's non-conference schedule as well as their conference schedule, of course, over the course of the year.
It's just one of those situations, like I said, where you never quite have a handle on. You could play in a pre-season conference tournament with the expectation that you win your first game and play a real marquee team the second or maybe even third attempt, and if you lose that game, it might be a little bit different. That's just the luck of the draw.
Once again, that's just one of the criteria that we look at. We obviously look at the quality of the team from the standpoint of their performance just in a general sense, and that's where the eyeball test comes in to play. How good is a team? We watch a lot of teams and we see how they all play.

Q. Back to the last 12, not giving it so much weight as part of the criteria. How does it weigh for you when a team is in the tank at the end of the season and is like 1-5 in their last six games? Is that something that bothers you about a team about putting them in the at-large field?
DAN GUERRERO: Well, you know, once again, it's about the body of work. That could be an issue for some of the members on the committee. There's no question about that.
Once again, I don't want to create a misconception about the last 12 games. We took that off of the team sheet because we felt there was a misconception out there by the public and by the media. That doesn't necessarily mean those last 12 games aren't important. We have the ability to look at that, to see who is playing stronger, to see who has gelled during the course of the season.
Can that enhance a résumé? Yeah, it might be. I can't say it's an absolute variable that is going to be the tipping point for any one team or a team that might be stumbling a little bit at the end, whether that would be a tipping point to keep them out. It could be, but we just don't know yet. It has to be measured against a number of other factors.
We're measuring one team against the next. In the end, that might be a variable. But I can't tell you at this point whether it would be or not.

Q. It seems that RPI is just one small way to weigh a team; that it doesn't really factor in that much. Is there a number where you just say, All right, you know, if your RPI is 70, that's where we start looking at you and where we finish because 70 is really getting down there? Is there a number for you that makes you say that?
DAN GUERRERO: No, there's no number.

Q. I don't want to be presumptuous before Sunday evening, but there are clearly going to be some tradition-rich bluebloods of college basketball that are not in the 65-team field this year. Does that give you - not in deliberations - but any pause as you're putting this together? I could name some in the PAC-10, one that hits home for you, North Carolina, Connecticut, that you say, Wow, this is a different year.
DAN GUERRERO: I would say this. First of all, from the standpoint of not being presumptuous, we still have the tournaments to be played. The door stands open for any one of those teams, whether they're bluebloods or not bluebloods. The story line's different from year to year. Each year is unique. I still think we need to see how things play out.
That's the beauty of college basketball, that's the beauty of this tournament, and that's why we call it March Madness.
DAVE WORLOCK: Thank you, Dan, for your time this afternoon and late morning. We know it's a busy time for you as you lead the committee into the most important time for this group. We want to thank the members of the media for participating on the call.
A reminder well have a 7 p.m. teleconference on Sunday evening after the bracket has been unveiled. We will send out a reminder with pass code information over the weekend. We'll also will have a opportunity for follow-up 3 p.m. eastern Monday afternoon on March 15th. Another reminder will be sent about that, as well.
We thank you again and we'll talk to you soon.

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