Determining the at-large bids and seeding for the NCAA Tournament isn’t as simple as it may appear from the outside for the selection committee members.
Committee chairman Ron Shayka said in an interview with Off the Block on Friday that the selection committee is having to examine the context of each team’s statistics as it works to determine field for the six-team NCAA Tournament.
Check out the complete interview with Shayka as the committee chairman discusses the role strength of schedule will play into the criteria used to determine the at-large bids, the possibilities of a non-West Coast team earning an at-large bid and how this could be the final year of Conference Championship Saturday.
Off the Block: We are two days away from Selection Sunday, what is this time of the year like the committee?
Ron Shayka: We are in pretty constant communication. We are working on a number of things from logistics in terms of next week [with the NCAA Tournament] to looking at how the [conference] tournaments are going in our regions. It’s a combination of some planning and discussion about tournament seeding, the at-large bids and stuff like that.
OTB: What has been the focus within those at-large bid discussions that you have had so far?
RS: As it is every year we are looking at data as it pertains to the criteria and the NCAA selection championship manual. And just trying to get as much information on the matches as possible. The NCAA supplies us with a lot of the results so we’ll have that. We are talking among ourselves about what we know and what we’ve seen. Each of us are in our individual regions so we get a chance to see the teams that are likely to advance.
OTB: In terms of the criteria now that you guys have had a chance to delve into the data, is there any piece of criteria that you are placing more heavy weight on this year?
RS: I don’t know if it’s any extra weight. We are looking at how it is all integrated into the criteria. When you look at things like win-loss record you can’t take that just solely on record without considering strength of schedule. I think that’s really what we are looking at. We are looking at each of the individual criteria as they relate to maybe some of the others because some times it’s not as easy to say, “Well win-loss this person was 18-8 and this person was 17-9. So therefore the 18-8 gets the advantage.” We are just looking at how the criteria works with each other.
OTB: So with strength of schedule being such a point of emphasis this year is there a feeling among the committee that if Loyola wins the MIVA Tournament both at-large bids are going to come out of the West Coast or is there a chance we could see two Midwest teams?
RS: There’s always a chance. Right now I don’t think we’ve predetermined anything yet. I think what happens is that we look at whoever wins and then what is the next group of teams that have enough of the criteria and how do they stack up against each other. It’s not necessarily West or Midwest or East, it’s strictly on criteria.
OTB: This is the first year of the six-team field. Has it felt more difficult with having to decide two at-large bids?
RS: I think where the difficulty lies is logistics. That has occupied a good amount of our efforts. The fact that there are two at-large bids is really not that much more difficult than any other year because we are basically doing the same process and just extending it one more.
OTB: What are some of the logistical challenges of the NCAA Tournament this year?
RS: Really the tough thing is because of scheduling. Three of the regional championships are [Saturday] night and when we add those play-in games next week it really makes it difficult. From the time we know the final champion in the Pacific on Saturday night, the clock is running to get everybody organized, and the teams that need to be Chicago a couple days later.
OTB: Just to follow up on that, moving forward I know that you are a part of EIVA executive committee. Could this be the end of Conference Championship Saturday and will conferences in the upcoming years have to look at moving up the dates of their conference championship matches to earlier in the week?
RS: I think you hit the nail on the head. I think that has already started to percolate throughout the volleyball world and realizing that all of the regions may find it necessary to bump up their conference tournaments one week so the play-in games would have their own weekend prior to a championship with the semifinals and finals.
OTB: We have three championship matches on Saturday, I know you’ll be at the EIVA Tournament, but is there any match in particular you’ll be keeping an eye on?
RS: We make an effort to stay in communication with all of the committee members who are watching their own region. We know we’ll be in communications throughout the night and tomorrow. Generally what happens is we get scores in-game so there really isn’t any big surprises at the end of the night. All three of us kind of follow the three championships very intensely.