July 19, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS –Having led the Oakland women’s basketball team to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances, head coach Beckie Francis knows what it takes to get her team into the Big Dance. However, on Monday and Tuesday she got an even better look at how the process works as a member of a mock selection committee at the NCAA Headquarters.
“It was really eye-opening to meet the actual members of the NCAA Division I Selection Committee and to see the amount of work and preparation that goes into selecting, seeding and bracketing the teams,” said Francis. “All of the rumors and misconceptions that coaches have were totally put to rest at the end of the experience.”
Each year the NCAA Division I women’s basketball staff hosts two mock selection exercises, one for coaches and one for the news media, to offer greater understanding into the process that the selection committee follows. Only 20 members are identified from a national pool of coaches to travel to the NCAA team hotel for the two-day exercise.
The members work in teams of two to represent the 10 members of the Division I Women’s Basketball Selection Committee. The coaches are briefed and given the automatic bids before starting the process of selecting which teams will receive at-large bids. The coaches follow the same format that the real committee uses in March and once they’ve selected the at-large bids they must seed the teams from one-to-64 before the first day is completed.
“I have so much respect for the committee members,” concluded Francis. “I asked them if this was a full-time job and they laughed because they all work other full-time jobs and volunteer their time for the good of the game. The dedication and hard work that is put in by the committee was reassuring and great to see.”
On the second day of the event the coaches must put the teams into the bracket, filling each region. This completes the exercise and the coaches debrief to discuss what they learned from the experience, with the committee members.
“Some of the things that coaches seem to think are really important never came up during the process,” said Francis. “For example, winning 20 games was never mentioned. It was more about RPI, key wins and strength of schedule. It really, re-emphasized what I need to be doing as a coach with our scheduling.”
While the experience debunked a number of myths to the selection process, it also highlighted some of the important aspects of scheduling.
“It emphasized the difficulties that a mid-major faces to get an at-large bid to the tournament,” said Francis. “It gave me a clear sense of scheduling and how to help our team. Having a clean schedule is important, meaning that you can’t have a hiccup on the road in a game you should win. It’s also important for a mid-major to have a strong strength of schedule. At Oakland we are already scheduling tough opponents like UConn., Michigan State, Purdue and Clemson, which helps.”
The exercise is intended to educate both coaches and media members to the truth behind the selection process. It helps gives these groups a better understanding and appreciation of what the committee does.
“I am very confident in how teams are seeded,” said Francis. “Seeing it in person you realize that there are no agendas with the seeding and that the process is totally fair. The entire process was about 16 hours, but it seemed to go by really fast.”