NCAA tourney committee expects choices to be tough

Putting three more teams in the NCAA tournament won’t make the

selections any easier for Gene Smith or his selection committee

members.

In fact, things could get more complicated.

Smith still expects to hear complaints from the bubble teams

that are left out of the new 68-team field this March.

”I still believe there’s going to be that 38th and 39th team

that feel they should have been the 36th or 37th (at-large) team,”

the selection committee chairman said Wednesday on a conference

call. ”I do believe, though, in the room we’ll kind of have one of

those moments of, ‘OK, here we are with trying to solidify who 35,

36 and 37 is.’ But it won’t change our process.

”I think it will be more of a psychological or emotional

experience in the first year of going to 68.”

The NCAA announced in April that it would expand the field to 68

teams rather than going to 96, which many considered inevitable

because the governing body was negotiating a new television

deal.

When CBS and Turner Sports, which won the rights to televise

college basketball’s marquee event, said they didn’t necessarily

need that many additional games to turn a profit, the NCAA opted

for a smaller expansion.

Clearly, this March will look quite different to viewers.

It will be the first time every tourney game will be televised

live nationally. One game will be carried by CBS, with others

carried on TNT, TBS and truTV.

And there will be the inaugural ”First Four” round of games.

Previously, there had been one such game, which fans dubbed the

play-in game because the winner advanced to face one of the four

No. 1 seeds.

This time, however, two games will be played between the four

lowest seeds to make the field, while the other two will feature

the last four at-large qualifiers.

Some are hoping it will open the door to giving more bids to the

so-called mid-major programs and conferences, though Smith

cautioned the committee will follow the same selection and

bracketing rules and procedures it has in the past.

”I don’t know if it will make it easier,” Smith said. ”It’s

really hard to speculate what that moment will bring for us. We’ll

move through our process. Now, as opposed to stopping, we’ll go to

37 at-large.”

Will the extra spots help teams like Butler and Northern

Iowa?

Maybe.

”It helps four teams, I don’t know which four teams it helps,”

Butler coach Brad Stevens said. ”I don’t know they’re in any given

league. What we try to do is we try to go out and schedule the best

schedule that we possibly can, which in the coaching fraternity

they call me crazy for doing that, so that we at least have a shot

to qualify for the tournament in two ways.”

The new tourney format wasn’t the only hot topic. Smith

acknowledged that during last week’s meeting in New Orleans, the

selection committee did discuss holding an opening day event to

start the college basketball season.

No formal proposals have been made, but the two coaches on the

call – Stevens and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski – said they would support

the move.

”I think sometimes toward the waning parts of the football

season, or at least the regular season, all of a sudden pops up a

college basketball game,” Stevens said. ”It’s like, ‘I didn’t

realize that was going on.”’

Duke and Butler played for last season’s national title and will

meet in a Dec. 4 rematch at East Rutherford, N.J.

Krzyzewski and Stevens also voiced opposition to eliminating

summer recruiting, a proposal the NCAA executive committee decided

last month would be studied over the next 12 months. The Collegiate

Commissioners Association had proposed an outright ban.

Krzyzewski was upset no coaches were included in the CCA’s

discussion and contends a ban would actually increase a school’s

recruiting costs.

”Summer recruiting is essential for schools of all levels,”

Krzyzewski said. ”I think the amount of money that you would have

to put into it if you didn’t have summer recruiting would be

immense because you get to see so many kids during a short period

of time in one area. So it’s essential. What we do with it, I mean,

it should be a consensus with the coaches and our administrators as

to what is best for our game. You’re going to have to do something

in the summer, there’s no question about it.”