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February 8, 2020

David Worlock

Mitch Barnhart

Indianapolis, Indiana

DAVID WORLOCK: Hi, everyone, and welcome to this afternoon's call with the committee chair, first media teleconference of the season after today's unveiling of the top 16 earlier this afternoon on CBS. I am with Mitch Barnhart, the director of athletics at the University of Kentucky and vice-chair of the Division I men's basketball committee this year. Mitch is so graciously pinch-hitting for Kevin White, the chair of the committee, who had to leave to attend a funeral today, and so Mitch will be taking questions.

We just want to remind everyone that a transcript of today's call will be available soon after the call concludes. You can find the transcript at www.ncaa.com/transcripts.

Q. Kevin spoke a little bit about the difference between Gonzaga and San Diego State in the committee's mind. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that. I know they're very close resumes, but what did you feel put Gonzaga ahead of San Diego State?
MITCH BARNHART: Well, there was no question that San Diego State was a No. 1 seed. They've had a remarkable year, and we had an opportunity, a couple of us, to watch San Diego State in person when we were on the West Coast for the NCAA convention, and they were incredibly impressive, and they have obviously had a wonderful, wonderful start to their season.

It was razor close between Gonzaga and San Diego State. Gonzaga had a couple of wins just slightly better than San Diego State's with a win over Oregon and Arizona, and that was just the razor's edge difference between the two.

Q. I was just wondering with Arizona, I know the NET is primarily a sorting tool, but they're like eighth on the NET and probably projected as a 5 or 6 or 7 at this point. Does that make them tricky to evaluate, or what do you do with a team like that?
MITCH BARNHART: Yeah, the NET is just one of many tools that we use to evaluate our teams, and obviously you've got metrics, you've got head-to-head competitions. We take all of those things into consideration. Non-conference performances are important to what we're trying to get done.

So there's a lot of pieces to the puzzle. There again, they're beginning to trend the right way and do some really nice things with their team. Had a chance to watch them Thursday night in their game against USC, and so clearly it's a very competitive race in the Pac-12, and with 1,500 games left to play in the season as a college basketball season and tournaments to play, they've certainly got room to make their impact on the brackets.

Q. Does the margin -- they've played Gonzaga and Oregon and Baylor all really close. Does the margin factor in that, and is that maybe why their NET rating is so high and yet they're probably not worthy of a seed that high?
MITCH BARNHART: They've had a lot of wins where their margin of victory has been large and their losses have been very close, so that combination does feed into the metrics. So yes, that is a factor in all of that. And then again, many of the other tools that we use to evaluate teams.

Their road record is 2-4, so that is a factor, so hopefully for their -- they would like to probably win some more games on the road, and that would be of help to them, as well.

Q. I have a question on the Dayton Flyers. They came in today at the No. 6 position as a safe 2 seed, but without having a tier 1A victory to speak of. Of course their two losses are both in overtime. I was curious how you evaluated Dayton in particular, and what was the difference between a team like them and Arizona?
MITCH BARNHART: They're 5-0 on the road and their only two losses are neutral losses in overtime, as you said earlier. Incredible player in Obi Toppin, and just a remarkably efficient basketball team. They have performed at a high level, and obviously doing a remarkable job in the A-10.

I think all of those pieces just give us great confidence to put them on the 2 line, and they've got plenty of opportunities ahead of them to make a great run in the tournament if they continue to play the way they are.

Q. Curious about Oregon. I was wondering if they're kind of tough to go through because they beat some teams that were ranked pretty highly early in the year in terms of Michigan and North Carolina and Memphis who have fallen off a little bit. Curious what the overview was with the Ducks.
MITCH BARNHART: Well, Payton Pritchard is obviously a dynamic player, in many conversations for the National Player of the Year award, obviously in a league that has really made some progress this year in the Pac-12. They're 18-5, and with a really challenging schedule. They've challenged themselves in the non-conference, so they've showcased themselves remarkably well.

Seton Hall, they beat Seton Hall on a neutral floor, the Michigan win, all those things give the committee some reasons to place them where we did. We thought they have really got a tremendous basketball team, and so that's why we placed them where we did.

Q. You had mentioned Arizona up there. Does the Pac-12 have a few that were in the discussion for the top 16 but didn't get in?
MITCH BARNHART: Yeah, there were several teams that were in -- the committee met on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We concluded our meetings on Thursday, and since then 74 games have been played just before today's Saturday games. Obviously Arizona was in that conversation, Colorado was discussed. But eventually we had to pick 16 teams, and so the top four seed lines, if we started the tournament today, that's where we would sort of land, and then there were some other teams that they mentioned on the bracket reveal show of Iowa and Kentucky and LSU that were in the conversations probably more closely to that 4 line, but the conversation was deep. The balance in the field is remarkable, and so -- people are saying that it's one of the more balanced, competitive brackets in history, and I would tend to agree with that. With 1,500 games to go, it's an exciting way to look ahead to Selection Sunday.

Q. San Diego State is kind of in this unenviable position if the seedings stay the way they do right now where as a 1 seed they'd go to New York. If they dropped to the 2 seed line, they'll likely end up in Los Angeles and that's a bus ride from campus and they'd have an arena full of fans. Does the committee take that into consideration knowing what a school might prefer or might be better suited for it when you might have this kind of enormous travel or if they end up in the east they end up in the east and that's tough luck?
MITCH BARNHART: Well, I think the top four seeds, if you're one of the best four, then you're a 1 seed. And we have to evaluate that as it is.

If you look over the history, we've had multiple east teams that have gone -- had to go west. At times that has happened. You've had a couple of teams from the east where they've had to go to the West Coast, and this is only the second time since 2000 we've had two teams that are West Coast teams that are No. 1 seeds if this process were to hold where one would have to go somewhere else, go east.

In that time there was two teams that went, Arizona and Stanford, and they did not have to go all the way east, but at the end of the day, that's where the brackets and that's where the regions are mapped out at this point in time.

In the history of the seeded tournament, top-seeded teams were assigned to a regional three time zones away nine times. All of them were teams from the eastern time zone going to the west and two won a National Championship and three more advanced to the Final Four. That's part of that process.

But you cannot -- if someone is legitimately a top-four team they must be a 1 seed and then you work your way down. You don't artificially break up the bracket.

Q. Kevin White mentioned in the show and you've spoken about some of the teams that were considered as a 4 seed that just missed out, and Kentucky was one of them. Can you give us a sense of what it was maybe that kept Kentucky out of one of those four seeds?
MITCH BARNHART: Well, first, let me be really clear. During those conversations I am not in the room when it is discussed, so I'm recused from the room, and so as athletic director at Kentucky, I am not in the room, I'm just given the result of the conversation and how it played out.

I think, Josh, at that point I would have to say about that's all -- I could refer to David Worlock and let him chime in.

DAVID WORLOCK: From a positive standpoint, from Kentucky, were some of the performance in the non-conference, specifically a road win at Texas Tech and a neutral court win over Michigan State, to go with the home win over Louisville, so they have three high-quality non-conference wins that certainly helped Kentucky. And as far as the negative were some of the losses, the loss to Evansville specifically, was probably enough to keep them on the outside of the first four lines, but again, along with some of the other teams that have been mentioned, Iowa and LSU and a couple of the Pac-12 schools that were mentioned previously. They certainly received consideration, as Mitch alluded to. There's plenty of opportunities for all those teams to get quality wins before the end of the season and potentially move up into that top four lines.

Q. I'm just curious looking at the 2 line with Duke and Louisville so closely matched up, obviously there's the head-to-head result there, I'm just wondering how much weight that does have in ultimately seeding those two. Obviously Duke lost that match-up but is still ahead of Louisville.
MITCH BARNHART: They did. It is a full body of work, and we also must take into account that Duke had the win against Kansas and had better metrics overall in terms of how that played out. Slight edge in the metrics in terms of I just mentioned that, and I think that's sort of where we are. Again, it's not just one thing. I think what people want to do is look at one thing and say that's all it is, and it's the quality of the wins in the first quadrant, so I think if you match up those two or three things, that would be the difference.

Q. I was curious, I'm kind of the opposite side of the coin from an earlier question about San Diego State, but I'm looking at it from Duke being a No. 2 seed and possibly in the east. Is there any consideration given to an advantage or disadvantage, because it kind of seems like based on Duke's -- their history and everything in New York City, that that would be a favorable -- it would almost be unfavorable for San Diego State to have to play Duke in the east in New York City. So I was curious if there is -- you wouldn't change a No. 1 seed if they're a top four and they're qualified as a No. 1, but would you change a No. 2 to make it -- to kind of go for any kind of balance in that respect?
MITCH BARNHART: Well, first thing, history really, we don't look at the history of what they had to do with it in terms of where they're placed. Both teams would have to win three games to get to that match-up, number one. And then at the end of the day, there's also the geography piece and the way we place our teams to stay within the next available place for them to play, closest place, unless it throws off the balance of the brackets, and we want to make sure that we get that right.

And we want to make sure that we stay true to the seed list in all of that. That's how we drive to the bracket decisions that we get to.

Q. I was wondering if Butler would have not been in the top 16, if it had lost to Villanova on Wednesday, and also if there is -- if Butler is eligible to be routed through the Midwest regional in Indiana even though that's its home city?
MITCH BARNHART: So there were several teams that were in the conversation for the 4 seed line. Clearly the win that they had on Wednesday night when the committee was convening was a factor in them moving into the 4 seed line. It was a heck of a win. So that was a factor, because there were several people in that conversation.

But having said that, they are eligible to be in Indianapolis because they don't play -- they're eligible to play, they're not hosts, and they don't play three games in that arena, and they're allowed to participate -- Horizon League and IUPUI are hosting that event, so they would be able to, if eligible, and if all the brackets, decisions on the bracketing worked out, they would be eligible to participate in Indianapolis.

Q. I have a question on Penn State. I hadn't heard their name mentioned on the call here or on the show today, but they seem to have a very impressive resume with three quad 1-A wins, a win at Michigan State, who was selected No. 16, the final team in today, and just from a glance at things across the body of work, just a much more impressive body of work but a little bit better metrics from Michigan State. Can you tell me a little bit about how scrutinized Penn State was, first, and then second, how far off they might be in your eyes?
MITCH BARNHART: Great season they're having so far, and clearly trending in the right direction. They're having -- they've won five in a row and their metrics are all in the top 20. We discussed a lot of teams. They were just not discussed in the 16 at this time. That doesn't mean that's not possible going forward. They've got an awful lot left to their season.

Their non-conference results is also a part of that factor, and so we looked at a lot of those pieces. That wasn't one deciding factor, but I will say this: They're obviously trending well. They've won five in a row, and remarkably tough ballclub and playing well.

DAVID WORLOCK: We definitely want to thank everyone for their time and attention today. Lots of good questions, and lots of outstanding basketball going on today and through the remainder of the season leading up to Selection Sunday on March 15. Again, thanks, everyone, and one final reminder that a transcript will be available soon by going to NCAA.com/transcripts. Thanks again, everyone.

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