March Madness Selection Committee

The Power To Make Choices Suits Committee Ties


Although there’s always a choice or two by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee that leaves coaches, reporters and fans shaking their heads, Selection Sunday seems to unleash more controversy than previous years. The committee is in charge of selecting the 37 at large teams that will play in March Madness, while 31 other clubs have been chosen via natural selection—conference tournaments. The committee also seeds and matches up teams.

It is an ongoing, season-long process for committee members that includes trips to various basketball games, lots and lots of reading material, viewing of games via satellite, and a four-day meeting to actually chose who will get a ticket to the Big Dance and how teams will be bracketed. Although many people believe the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index is a major factor in this process, that’s actually not true. In the course of choosing teams, the committee considers various aspects of a club’s season. There is no hard and fast formula for picking teams.

Whether one likes it or not, there’s a human factor that comes into play in the selection process, which means individuals on the committee can greatly influence who gets in and who is left out. The group is composed of ten people from college sports programs across the country. This includes athletic directors and league commissioners. There is one chair of the selection committee and these people change over time which is good since there is always plenty of media and public criticism to handle once the teams were announced.

Are these controversial choices all some sort of conspiracy? That’s unlikely. But when 10 people are together for a long weekend and engaged in one specific task, a group dynamic tends to develop which includes unspoken alliances, empathetic leanings, and hidden agendas. That’s simply part of human nature and it’s what often leads to collective conclusions that defy individual logic.

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