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February 8, 2017

Bruce Rasmussen

Dan Gavitt

Indianapolis, Indiana

DAVE WORLOCK: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. We really appreciate your time.

We want to start off and ask for your forgiveness as we're calling a late audible for today's teleconference. We are happy to have our vice chair, Bruce Rasmussen, director of athletics at Creighton University; and Dan Gavitt, NCAA senior vice president for basketball, will be joining us.

I think everyone can agree Mark is one of the more accessible ADs in the country. He will be available at a later time, but will not be available for today's teleconference.

I'll turn it over to Bruce Rasmussen for an opening comment and then we'll take questions.

Go ahead, Bruce.

BRUCE RASMUSSEN: Thank you, Dave. Hello, everyone, and thank you for your time today.

I'm in Indianapolis with my colleagues at the NCAA headquarters where we have been conducting our annual Selection Committee meeting, which serves as a refresher for us veteran committee members as well as an introduction to the voting mechanisms and software for our two new committee members, Mitch Barnhart of the University of Kentucky, and Paul Krebs of the University of New Mexico.

As you likely know by now, this year's orientation meeting has a new twist since we are releasing our top 16 overall seeds for the first time ever. Those seeds, which will be based on games through Friday, February 10th, will be revealed Saturday on CBS at 12:30 eastern time.

While we are confident Saturday's show will generate considerable discussion about what my colleagues and I determine this week, it's important to emphasize that every team in the country will play six or seven games apiece between Saturday and the end of the regular season.

In fact, if you estimate 300 games will be played in the 32 conference tournaments between February 28th and March 12th, there are roughly 1,350 games to be played between Saturday and the time the bracket will be revealed the night of Selection Sunday.

The discussions we are having this week, which included a conference call late Monday afternoon, meetings that started yesterday, and will continue until about noon tomorrow, are in the context of Saturday being Selection Sunday.

There are 343 teams eligible for this year's tournament. While the focus will be on selecting and seeding the top 16 teams for the show, we will also go through a full bracketing exercise. That likely means we have to expedite the process of selecting and seeding teams, but it's more that every committee member are comfortable with the process of selecting teams for the field, seeding the teams, scrubbing the seed line, and putting together a full bracket.

It's commonplace for us or the staff to select the last handful of teams and finish the seed list for us during this meeting because of time restraints, but that needs to be done in order for us to have a full bracketing exercise.

The top 16 teams, though, will be in order and bracketed based on the votes of the committee. That's what will be shared with viewers this Saturday.

As usual, it's been a fun season with a lot of storylines, and it's setting up for another great tournament. The positive statistical trends we saw last year have held up this season. There is a great mix of teams from all over the country that have a shot to get to Phoenix for the Final Four, and as Saturday proved with a record-tying six top teams losing, you never know what you're going to get with college basketball. That's what makes it so much fun.

With that, Dan Gavitt and I are ready to answer any questions you might have.

Q. Obviously the whole idea that there's been so many upsets, there's no dominant team this year, obviously that affects the top. Do you have a sense of how much that affects the bubble at this point, whether there's some ripple effect there?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: My sense is we're looking at a tremendous number of teams, and the difference between the top teams and the bubble teams is really thin. So we have to slice each of those résumés very thinly and take a look at a number of things.

But it is going to be an extremely difficult process, I think, for the committee this year because of the parity.

Q. In terms of road wins, I know everyone has their own criteria, but how much do you individually value that as a committee member?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: I think last year 68% of the games played in Division I basketball were won by the home team. So one of the most difficult things to do in college basketball is to win on the road. Every committee member looks at that a little differently. But certainly I think every committee member values road wins.

Q. I know you met with all the analytics guys. I am curious about what are your thoughts about incorporating some of these other analytic people into the way you're determining things this year? I know that's not supposed to happen this year, that you'll mostly rely on the RPI. What kind of things did the meeting generate? Specifically, what does it mean for teams that are playing better at the end of the season in terms of predictive ways teams are getting into the tournament?
DAN GAVITT: The committee has for a number of years now had at its disposal a variety of metrics to help analyze teams for selection and seeding. They continue to use some of those metrics in that exhaustive and thorough process.

As you noted, the meeting that took place here a couple of weeks ago in Indianapolis was a meeting about the future, not about this year, whether we could consider replacing or adjusting the use of the RPI as the main metric for ordering the data, and in essence coming up with a composite ranking of several different metrics that would possibly give us a higher level of confidence in that data.

It was a recommendation that came frankly from the NABC, the National Association of Basketball Coaches. The coaches feel strongly that using more advanced metrics that are available in the game now, as compared to when the RPI was introduced over 30 years ago, makes the game more relevant, the selection process more relevant and timely. That's something that's being considered for the future, not before the '17/'18 season at the earliest.

But the committee's use of other metrics in the process just to have a thorough evaluation of the teams has been the case and will continue to be the case again this year yet still using the RPI as the main metric for sorting the data.

Q. The predictive way of sort of determining which teams are hot at the end of the season, that kind of thing, is that something that you would consider or are considering or have considered?
DAN GAVITT: Good question. The committee, as you know, several years ago did away with part of the criteria that placed more emphasis on the last 10 games or, indeed, the last 12 games. That's no longer a criteria the committee uses.

As part of that meeting last week, a couple weeks ago, there was a lot of discussion about results-oriented metrics, versus predictive-oriented metrics, whether there should be use of both, and whether indeed results metrics should be used in the selecting of teams process and possibly predictive more so in the seeding of teams process.

Another determination is (indiscernible). I think it is a philosophical question that the committee is going to have to wrestle with a lot over the summer. But it is one of the things that was discussed, among others.

Q. Generally speaking, every year it's always mentioned that you take into account suspensions and injuries with each team when you're considering specific results. Is there any way to quantify how much that actually goes into a decision when you're looking at a team's results and you have to remember that they played the game and won it or lost it with who they had?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: Our job as a committee, certainly all injuries, suspensions, absences of coaches, transfers, new eligibility, all of those items are discussed. But we can't project whether a team would have won or lost with a full complement of players. It is a discussion item we have and it's looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Q. The bracketing principles indicate that teams from the same conference that met only once during the regular season and late tournament could meet as early as the second round. If it comes down to placing a team in a venue for the first weekend that's close geographically as opposed to matching it against a conference foe, would you try to avoid that conference rematch in the second round and send them elsewhere or would you keep them close to home?
DAN GAVITT: This is a relatively new principle and procedure just as of a couple years ago. The loosening of that policy was meant to avoid having to move teams up or down a seed line in order to keep them away from conference opponents, in games that may not even materialize, frankly, depending on the results of first-round games.

So I think in practice it's been very successful. The committee has not had to, in the last two years, move a single team up or down a seed line in order to avoid a conference opponent.

So I think that hearing from the NABC, their main recommendation in this regard was to be true to the seed line and not to have to compromise the seeding process by moving a team up or down the seed line.

In practice, and I think in philosophy as well, the committee would likely allow for a matchup like that to happen, not have to move a team up or down a seed line or, indeed, move them out of their geographic area to avoid that.

There is some discretion that can be used. If, for example, a team is going to take a flight in either case, and it's far removed from their natural geographic region, and maybe the other option is the next closest geographic region, then they may use their subjective discretion to avoid the possibility of that second-round matchup.

But by and large, I would say that in both practice and philosophy they would allow for that potential matchup to happen.

Q. Could this be the year that the committee might include more mid-major teams?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: We evaluate teams on their own merit. We don't take into account what conference they come from or what level of division they are in Division I. We look at each school on its own merit.

Q. Obviously this is the first time you'll do one of these shows you'll do this weekend. Depending on the reaction, if there's a lot of interest, is it something you'll reevaluate this summer in terms of is this something we should do more often, every week leading up to Selection Sunday, or is the committee pretty resolute this is something you can only do once?
DAN GAVITT: Like anything new, the committee will certainly evaluate how effective and successful a new initiative is, like the rankings show. There hasn't been a determination about the future.

My strong sense is as long as it meets with some level of success and interest by coaches, players, fans, media, they would repeat the same thing next year, at least with one ranking show.

Whether they'd consider multiple ranking shows, there are a lot of logistical challenges with that, none the least of which is the frequency with which basketball games happen on a nightly basis. The committee doesn't get together in person except for this week and then in March for selection week.

I don't know. The committee took a lot of care and consideration to get to this point. It probably was a year-plus evaluation even to get to this point. I don't know. I'm not sure how likely it would be to do it more than just one time.

Q. What has it been like working with Dawn Rogers and the Phoenix local organizing committee putting on the Final Four?
DAN GAVITT: Dawn has been a fabulous executive director of the Phoenix local organizing committee. Her experience working at Arizona State as a senior administrator, former athletic director at Xavier, her familiarity with coaches, ADs, commissioners, and the respect that she has across the business, has been unrivaled.

Of course, having been a resident of Phoenix for a long, long time now, over a decade, she's got so many business and civic contacts there, she really has done a terrific job, especially for a place that's never hosted before, and in a region frankly that hasn't hosted a Final Four in over 20 years.

Couldn't be more pleased or excited with what Dawn and her team have done and how excited we are about being in Phoenix in April.

Q. I'm curious about Mark Hollis. We know him as an innovator, creator. In his leadership role on the committee, as the chairman, is that something you have noticed that he's taken a different approach than previous chairmen? Is there something unique about him?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: That's a great question. Mark is certainly an innovator. He's creative. He thinks outside the box. He's a dynamic leader.

Mark has been consistent in the years that I've been on the committee, whether he's the chair, whether he's been a committee member, he's had a tremendous influence on the entire committee and the process.

Q. Do you have any example of things he's offered that have been creative or a different way of looking at things?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: Let's look first of all at Mark's Madness. In a couple weeks, his van tour, which will get him to a number of different conferences to see a number of different teams. That is certainly unique. It's not been done before.

Mark has always been at the forefront of looking at a lot of different analytics to try to slice the banana as thin as we can to really try to examine the differences between teams and why teams have earned the spot that they earned. He's been at the forefront of that.

Q. Bruce, we're talking about selection and seeding today. I believe the committee is also responsible for future sites and locations, is that correct?

Q. You're heading into this bid cycle, the nitty-gritty of the decision process. As you get to these final decisions on the next four years of sites, at what point will the cutoff be where North Carolina bids will be eliminated because of HB-2? How much longer are those bids viable?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: The NCAA decided in September to remove championships from North Carolina for the '16/'17 season. It has not yet determined future championship sites. The NCAA expects to announce site selections for the '18/'19 through '21/'22 championship seasons in April, but there hasn't been a discussion other than that.

Q. Does it make your job or the committee's job more difficult having a variable like that hanging out there as you make these important decisions?
BRUCE RASMUSSEN: It certainly does. I think you're aware of the fact that I think there are roughly 60 bids we evaluate for sites in a site selection process or bid process. That just adds another layer of complication to the process.

DAVE WORLOCK: We want to extend our gratitude for everyone for joining us today. We want to remind everyone that the bracket preview show will air on CBS at 12:30 eastern this Saturday. Mark Hollis will be on the set with CBS talent as they lead into the Kentucky-Alabama game at 1 p.m. We wish you a good afternoon.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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