NCAA Tournament selection committee completes journey

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 8:14 p.m. CDT; updated 12:00 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stan Morrison has the power many sports fans dream about. He is part of the 10-member selection committee that determines who will play in college basketball's NCAA Tournament.

Morrison, the athletics director at the University of California, Riverside, joined the men's basketball selection committee five years ago. The work began at the start of the season. Morrison watched several games every day.

"I'm in my office between five and six every morning, and I leave at nine or 10 every night, depending on if we have a game or an event," Morrison said in a telephone interview on Friday. "I work seven days a week. I’ll see as many as 20 games in a weekend. It really is a labor of love."

The members of the selection committee also received statistics and other information on injuries and suspensions that factored into the decisions they made for the tournament. Morrison noted two suspensions this season had implications in the committee's choices.

Oklahoma upset Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 tournament after Bears' guard Perry Jones, second on the team in scoring and rebounding, was suspended. Baylor's chances of an NCAA tournament bid ended with the loss.

Brigham Young's Brandon Davies was dismissed on March 1 because of a team honor code violation. Without Davies, who led the team in rebounds per game and was the Cougars' third-leading scorer, BYU went on to lose in the Mountain West Conference Championship game. The loss ended the Cougars' chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"The conference office is constantly sending us all kinds of statistical information and additional information, a key injury, someone suspended, someone is in trouble with the coach, because that's important for us to know," Morrison said.

All of the homework finally came into play starting Wednesday when the members of the committee gathered in Indianapolis. The task of creating the 68-team tournament field lasted until Sunday.

"Right now we're sequestered on the 15th floor of a hotel, and as we're here, nobody can get to us," Morrison said on Friday. "We eat here. We watch television here. We sleep here. I've gotten the same room for five years."

The selection committee used a lounge next to the dining room in their hotel with five televisions, all of which had games on during conference tournament play. Morrison said the process of voting on the possible tournament competitors consumed most of their time.

The selection committee ranked the teams they chose in one large list on Sunday. Then, beginning with the top choice, a computer placed teams into one of four regions based on geographic location. The overall No. 1 seed will play in the region closest to its campus, and the second-ranked No. 1 seed will be placed in the closest of the three remaining regions.

The computer repeats this step with every team on the list, which means because of time constraints, the members of the selection committee is often left in suspense like the rest of the country as to what the final bracket will look like.

Gene Smith, the athletics director at Ohio State and chairman of the selection committee, took this season's final bracket to CBS, which had set up a television studio in the committee's hotel, and it was announced at 6 p.m. EST on Sunday.

But, Morrison said there have been years when the committee worked up until the 6 p.m. deadline ranking the teams and the computer's work to place the teams into regions happened just minutes before air time.

"Sometimes at 5:55 we’re running down the hall with the pairings. We have to watch on TV," Morrison said. "We have to see who's playing against who because we've been so busy during the seeding."

After the tournament schedule was announced Sunday night, the selection committee relaxed and exhaled. Morrison said he accepts criticism that teams like Colorado and Virginia Tech should have been included in the field.

"The hard part of the thing, the bashing with ESPN on the committee right now, is that's to be expected," Morrison said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "If we reversed it, those teams that they're complaining about, put them in, take the ones out that got in, then those teams are going to complain."

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