To understand exactly what the committee does, let’s take a step back and look at how men’s basketball teams are selected for the NCAA tournament.
How are the tournament teams selected?
There are two ways that a team can earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. The 32 Division I conferences all receive an automatic bid, which they each award to the team that wins the postseason conference tournament. Regardless of how a team performed during the regular season, if they are eligible for postseason play and win their conference tournament’s championship game, they receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. These teams are known as automatic qualifiers.
The second avenue for an invitation is an at-large bid. The selection committee convenes on Selection Sunday, after every regular season and conference tournament game is played, and decides which 36 teams that are not automatic qualifiers have the pedigree to earn an invitation to the tournament.
How do they decide which teams get an at-large bid?
There are a multitude of stats and rankings that the selection committee takes into account — from NET rankings (which replace the RPI this year) to strength of schedule — but there is no set formula that determines whether a team receives an at-large bid or not.
What (and when) is Selection Sunday?
Selection Sunday is the day when the selection committee reveals the full NCAA tournament bracket, including all teams and all seeds. In 2019, Selection Sunday is on Sunday, March 17.
What is the March Madness selection committee?
The 10-member NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee is responsible for selecting, seeding and bracketing the field for the NCAA Tournament.
Who is on the Selection Committee?
School and conference administrators are nominated by their conference. Those who are selected serve five-year terms and represent a cross-section of the Division I membership.
Currently, the chair of the committee is Bernard Muir, the director of athletics at Stanford.
Here are the rest of the committee members:
- Mitch Barnhart, director of athletics, University of Kentucky
- Tom Burnett, commissioner, Southland Conference
- Janet Cone, director of athletics, University of North Carolina Asheville
- Bernadette McGlade, commissioner, Atlantic 10 Conference
- Michael O’Brien, vice president and director of athletics, University of Toledo
- Jim Phillips, vice president for athletics and recreation, Northwestern University
- Chris Reynolds, vice president for intercollegiate athletics, Bradley University
- Craig Thompson, commissioner, Mountain West Conference
- Kevin White, director of athletics, Duke University
What about a conflict of interests?
There are rules in place to avoid any conflict of interest in the selection process. Any committee member that represents a specific conference cannot be in the room when teams from that conference are being discussed, and they are not allowed to vote for teams from their conference. The same applies to school representatives, who cannot discuss or vote for their own schools.
What is the timeline for the committee’s tournament selection process?
The committee gathers and begins discussions for the upcoming basketball season. Conferences are divided among committee members so they can focus on monitoring assigned teams throughout the season. Committee members, with the exception of the chair, have approximately seven conferences each for which they serve as the primary or secondary monitor.
The committee heads to Indianapolis a month before the real selection to go through a selection orientation process, which includes a scaled-down selection and seeding process, as well as a bracketing exercise. This helps new committee members get a feel for what will happen in March.
2019 is the third year for the March Madness Bracket Preview show. This preview will reveal the committee’s picks for the top 16 seeds, identifying the top four teams in each region as they stand before the February meeting.
Tuesday Before Selection Sunday
The committee arrives in New York City for the beginning of the selection process. For the next five days, the 10 committee members will cast hundreds of ballots and engage in debate over dozens of teams until the final bracket of 68 tournament teams is released on Selection Sunday.