Shortly after the 2004 NCAA Tournament bracket was unveiled, selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby explained why Oklahoma State had to settle for the No. 2 seed.
Bowlsby acknowledged that the committee did not factor into the Cowboys’ Big 12 title game victory over Texas because the selection was finished minutes before the show aired.
“We have to make a move at some point in the afternoon,” Bowlsby said at the time. “While we were in the seeding process, we made the conscious decision that we would no longer be able to consider Oklahoma State for the top row because they had not yet completed their game.”
While the Big 12 now concludes its tournaments a day earlier to avoid a repeat of the Oklahoma State scenario, the Big Ten, the SEC and several other leagues still hold their title games on Selection Sunday. Those leagues are willing to risk underestimating the seeding of their champions because Sunday title games generate additional money and exposure from TV networks leading selection shows for college basketball inventory.
Although the committee often makes conditional selections and seeds the field until Saturday night’s postponement, it takes great pains to ensure that Sunday’s title game maintains significance. The committee creates as many contingency brackets as necessary to account for the various possible title-game outcomes.
A contingency bracket may be required in case a bid stealer wins its way into a field of 68 and narrows the NCAA tournament bubble by one. or if winning or losing the title game is considered sufficient to upgrade or downgrade a team’s seeding. Sometimes, the team that does not play on that Sunday may also be affected.
“We’ll have a Sunday where we have 16 to 18 ready for emergencies,” former Southland Conference commissioner and chairman of the 2022 selection committee, Tom Burnett, told Yahoo Sports. “What happens if Team A wins versus Team B? And is there a Team C that is affected based on that result? You want it all mapped out the night before. It’s a Sunday afternoon buzzer beater based on a There cannot be a quick decision.
And yet while Burnett insists that “Sunday matters” and “no one is ignoring anything that happened that day,” he also acknowledges that the committee has a tough deadline. By noon on Sunday, committee members have to start bracketing so that they can finish before the selection show.
“There are years when you’re short on time and you have to move,” Burnett said. “You can’t spend a few more hours discussing a conference tournament title game. You have to bracket up by the broadcast deadline.
“So I guess if anybody has an absolute idea of whether or not Sunday’s games matter one way or the other, I would tell you it’s somewhere in the middle.”
No matter how many contingency brackets the committee prepares, some Big Ten and SEC coaches will still complain that their conference tournament results are not being considered.
In 2016, the selection committee awarded Kentucky a lower seed and tougher draw than Texas A&M, even though the Wildcats edged the Aggies in the SEC Tournament title game. This prompted John Calipari to complain to ESPN’s Race Davis, “Didn’t we play a basketball game today?”
The complaints escalated last March when conference tournament results seemed less important than usual. Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and Iowa all received lower-than-expected seeds, despite winning their respective conference tournaments.
The day after last year’s NCAA tournament bracket was unveiled, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes admitted he was surprised. The SEC Tournament champion Vols received only the No. 3 seed, despite Kentucky taking the afternoon off on Selection Sunday and Texas A&M a few hours before the selection show aired.
“Everyone said we were the 3 seed going into the SEC Tournament,” Barnes told reporters. “Don’t think the tournament helped us.
“If this is going to happen, if the conference tournament doesn’t make sense and if the teams that are already in the tournament can’t improve their seeding, then we should stay home and let the teams that are in the tournament go.” I’m trying to fight for that one bid.”
Ultimately, if the coaches think that a Sunday conference tournament title game doesn’t matter, they should take it up with their conference commissioners. It is the commissioners who have the power to decide that performance and TV revenue aren’t everything and extend their conference tournaments by one day.
Burnett said, “The reality is that if each tournament is done early it will help the committee and you can have a full discussion of what each team is doing.” “But obviously, television wants programming that Sunday, so the committee does the best it can.”