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NCAA 2019 BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP


February 6, 2019


Bernard Muir


Indianapolis, Indiana

DAVE WORLOCK: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today.

The Division I Men's Basketball Committee is here in Indianapolis this week for the annual selection orientation meeting. That meeting began yesterday and continues through tomorrow.

The purpose of this meeting has always been to introduce the procedures for selecting, seeding and bracketing teams to the new committee members while allowing returning members to refresh their familiarity with the process.

Beginning in 2017, this meeting took on an additional purpose as the committee selected, seeded, scrubbed and bracketed the top 16 teams for a mid-season public reveal. The committee will do that again this weekend with the announcement taking place Saturday at 12:30 p.m. eastern time on CBS.

In a moment, Bernard Muir, the director of athletics at Stanford University, the chair of the Men's Basketball Committee, will take questions from the media. First Bernard will make an opening remark.

BERNARD MUIR: Thank you. Hello, everyone. Thank you for your time today. I'm in Indianapolis with my colleagues at the NCAA headquarters. We have been conducting our annual selection orientation meeting in preparation for Sunday's bracket preview show on CBS, and the actual selection meeting in March which begins New York on March 13th, only 35 days from now.

Even now in my final year on this committee I find that orientation meeting quite valuable. While my fellow fifth-year colleague Janet Cone and some of the other veteran members of this group are familiar with this process, it's helpful to get a refresher course throughout this time.

Just as important, and this goes for all 10 of us, it's a an opportunity to meet in person for the first time this season to talk about teams and share a wealth of information about what we've learned and observed to this point in the season.

Saturday's announcement will include a ranking of the top 16 teams in order through games of this Friday. It's important to note that there are literally more than a thousand games left in the season, obviously lots can change between now and selection week. However, we think this exercise is good for us as a committee as it helps us set the table for the next five weeks, and we think it's good for the sport in general.

In year one of the bracket preview show, 15 of the 16 teams ranked in our February exercise remained in the top 16 when we did it for real in March. Last year 13 of the 16 teams were the same from February to March. Interestingly enough, two of the three teams that fell out of our top 16 in February were still 5 seeds in the tournament, while the other fell to a 10 seed. This illustrates how much can happen from now until the end of the season.

Whether half the teams change or all 16 teams revealed on Saturday remain the same, it's been a great season thus far and there's no reason to think the tournament won't be any different.

With that I'm ready to answer any questions you might have.

Q. I guess the newest tool you have is the NET. The other night after his game, Buzz Williams remarked that he called a timeout with 30 seconds left to try to get his team's deficit under 10 points because he thought it would affect the ratings and in general their NET. Do you find coaches, media, maybe committee members are still feeling their way with this metric?
BERNARD MUIR: It's a great question. I would say this tool, the NET, is only a year old, not even. Certainly the RPI was a 37-year-old tool. We worked with the NABC to come up with the new metric. We're quite pleased with how the new metric is working.

We've heard some coaches express some concern. I can tell you, and in talking with the committee at large, there's a thousand possessions that occur over the course of a year. Coming down to one possession is not going to adjust your NET that significantly.

Really what's important in those games, in every game, is who won the game, and certainly in the case in which Coach Williams was talking about, to have a team come in and win by 8 versus 11 really doesn't matter in the committee's eyes. What matters is who won the game and how did they do, where the game was played.

Q. I've heard some coaches say the cap on margin of victory at 10 points is influenced by efficiencies, that the bigger the margin of victory, most likely your team's efficiency would be better, so it blunts the idea of trying to stop teams from running up a margin. What do you make of that?
BERNARD MUIR: Well, let me clarify. The efficiency is not capped, so that could be misinformation that's out there. I know coaches are concerned about the efficiency and overall efficiency, but I would say what's most important for us is just making sure that we see the end result and how teams are playing.

The efficiency came into play, we ran various models about looking at this metric, and we realized with the scoring margin, the 10 felt right. That's why you heard the number in scoring margin where we capped it at 10. But at the same token, the bottom line is what we're looking at, how teams played and what was the end result.

Q. You touched on how fluid the situation is with a month to go. Could you elaborate on wherever a team sees itself ranked on Saturday, how much faith should they put in the idea or how much movement is possible from then until Selection Sunday?
BERNARD MUIR: Well, it really depends on each team, right? Like we've said, you heard other chairs say in the past, every game counts. We look at the full body of work. Not to be redundant with committee speak, but it is really important to see how the entire season plays out.

As we reveal on Saturday this bracket of 16, know that depending on the results that are coming down the pike as we finish up the regular season, as well as look at conference tournaments, things do adjust. We've seen that year after year where teams really start out strong, they might have taken on some water, that makes it a little harder to say are they still in the tournament or are they seeded where we thought they should be seeded. In some cases, if they take loss, they drop. In some cases, you might have teams that really accelerate down the stretch and their seeding could improve.

Q. I don't know if you get the ticker in your inbox every morning, each day there's a link that basically gives us a spreadsheet comparing NET with RPI and such. Do you find yourself looking at that and noting any stark contrasts?
BERNARD MUIR: To be quite honest with you, I'm not looking at the RPI any more. We as a committee have decided the RPI is kind of yesterday's news. Now we have this new feature called the NET. That's what we're plugged into.

Again, the NET is just one tool that we have at our disposal. When you look at those team sheets, there's a number of metrics we can pull from. That's what I've been using as my guide.

Another thing I think we need to underscore throughout this process is observation. Certainly watching games, watching how teams perform, is really important, as well as any metric we can use.

Q. With the quadrants, this is year two of that, how helpful has that been as opposed to record versus the top 50, versus the top 100?
BERNARD MUIR: I think the quadrants have been super helpful, extremely helpful for our committee. What we're trying to figure out and sort through is what are quality wins, what are quality games. Now we've enhanced the quadrants further to break out here are the top games in quadrant one, as well as quadrant two. Not all games in any of the quadrants are the same. We need to recognize that. That's been helpful in our conversation.

As you know, the committee has really taken into account what teams have done on the road and also on a neutral site, since the tournament is going to be on a neutral site.

Q. How many teams of the 16 so far for Saturday's announcement have already been determined? Will the games through Thursday go into that decision, that announcement for Saturday?
BERNARD MUIR: We've done our initial ballot. Our ultimate goal is to have 24 teams seeded.

I can say the first two lines, we pretty much are certain of who will occupy those first two lines. It's the 9 through 24 which still needs a lot of discussion, to be sorted through. We'll have a lot of work to do today and tomorrow to figure that out. But we think we know at least the top 8 who are certain to occupy those first two lines.

Again, on Saturday we'll only be revealing the overall 16.

Q. Will games played through Thursday go through y'all's decision for Saturday?
BERNARD MUIR: Yes, it will. We'll stop on Friday, then go from there.

Q. I think it's safe to say the NCAA tournament is very popular around the country. Is there a promotional value in Saturday's announcement? If so, why do you feel there's a need to further promote?
BERNARD MUIR: It certainly is popular. I think we were hearing from many folks within college basketball circles, within the landscape, saying, Boy, we yearn for more information, more transparency. This is an attempt to provide that a little bit early, whet the appetite, because we know Selection Sunday is so special. It also gives us a great practice in preparing for that special moment.

Q. I remember when the first NET rankings came out, it seems like it was the first weekend, there was quite a buzz.
BERNARD MUIR: Putting it kindly (laughter).

Q. What level of amusement did you and the committee members have about that reaction?
BERNARD MUIR: Well, we did hear from some folks expressing concerns. But we knew all along even if you were to release the RPI early in the season, you would see some teams you didn't expect to see so high up on the rankings.

We also new as part of this new NET, as time went on, we're seeing it's the case today, that it's starting to sort itself out. We'll see some more changes as we get closer to conference tournament play.

So the NET is doing exactly what we thought it would be doing, so we weren't too concerned about the angst that people were showing, those that were following early in the season.

Q. To clarify, when you do the top 16, you will also bracket them by region like you did the first two years?
BERNARD MUIR: That is correct.

Q. In line with your discussions about it's a new tool, there's been a lot of work with the NET. Could you see yourself when you're done with this process offering some suggestions of maybe we think this would have worked better going forward or do you think it's pretty much as it is and will stay that way?
BERNARD MUIR: I think it's a great question. I think based on our committee discussion, this is something that we'll always review at each of our meetings. I'm sure we'll do it again in the spring, when we visit it again in the summer. Like I said, it's a new tool, something that will probably be tweaked down the road, not sure how soon that will be.

The main thing about this tool is it's current. We want to remain current. Over the years I'm sure future committees will continue to look at the tool and see are there other aspects that we can enhance or pull back, see where we head. For right now, we feel like this is a great first start and we'll see in the off-season whether we need to review the tool at all.

Q. Looking ahead to Selection Sunday, I cover Kentucky, the SEC tournament final is on Sunday, is the committee's work done or how much can it use whatever the result is on a championship game on Sunday to impact whatever the bracket is?
BERNARD MUIR: Great question. We take into account games that are still being played even on that Sunday. We will have a variety of scenarios. If a team is playing in the championship game, if they win, here is what might happen, impact the seed line, impact where they're headed. If they take a loss...

In some cases, there might not be any change. We feel like whoever the team is playing in the championship, their fate is set in our minds. It just depends. But we will have every scenario at least prepared for when we get to late Sunday afternoon.

Q. As a Stanford AD, do you follow Reid Travis at all, how he's doing as a graduate transfer?
BERNARD MUIR: Obviously I'm watching games from all over the country. I've watched many games from Kentucky on TV. I know Reid is a phenomenal human being. He's a heck of a young man, a proud Stanford graduate, but playing really well at Kentucky right now. I'm happy for it.

Q. I am curious if you could shed any more light on the scheduled meeting you had with some of the Google analytics team this morning. Frankly and simply, do you have more information about the inner workings of the NET and its formula versus yesterday, what the Google analytics team is sharing with the committee that is improving the way you are seeding and selecting the field of 16 now, then obviously once we get to the real deal in March?
BERNARD MUIR: I would say we had a very good discussion with our colleagues from Google, further asking questions, some of the questions that were asked today. We feel really good about this tool. It's doing exactly what we set out. Somebody asked me earlier, do I see this could be potentially tweaked down the road. Possibly. I could see our committees down the road maybe wanting to make adjustments.

For right now, we feel like this is a heck of a tool. Somebody mentioned to me not too long ago when the iPhone first came out, everyone thought what a terrific tool. Now I see kids walking around with iPhone 11s or 12s. Heck of a tool, but modified over the years. I bet the NET will do the same at some point, it will evolve. Right now we feel like this is a great first step.

DAVE WORLOCK: Thanks, everyone. We appreciate your time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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