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Five factors key as committee mulls at-large bids


March 11, 2005 | Championship Week coverage

Chairman Bob Bowlsby and the NCAA Tournament selection committee have to lock themselves away and evaluate and analyze a lot of data to determine the 34 at-large teams.

The big question is, how do you define the best 34 at-large teams?

Will the new RPI help a few more mid-majors get into the field?
Is it based on record, where a school such as St. Mary's would excel with 25 wins? I saw St. Mary's in person in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Madison Square Garden in November.

You could tell then that the Gaels would be a special team when they were at full strength. There's no shame in losing to Gonzaga in the WCC finals.

Or does the committee look more at strength of schedule? Maryland went 7-9 in the best league in America: the ACC. These are the decisions the committee will have to make.

Breaking it down, here are five areas of concern for the committee. Let me tell you, these are men of integrity who will work around the clock to put together the best field possible for March Madness. They will do all in their power to present the greatest show in America, with the best 34 at-large teams to go with the 31 automatic bid representatives.

Here are five factors they will consider:

1. Injuries and Absences
Where does Texas get seeded without P.J. Tucker and LaMarcus Aldridge? The win at Oklahoma State should put the Longhorns in the field. How does Kansas get seeded if Keith Langford is out (ankle injury)? How will North Carolina be affected if Rashad McCants is out? The Tar Heels probably will remain a No. 1 seed unless there is a stunning development in the ACC tourney. Does Iowa have a shot to sneak in with Pierre Pierce off the team?

2. The Adjusted RPI
Will the new RPI help a few more mid-majors get into the field? Will some power conferences scream if there are a few surprises? The revised system gives road victories more weight in the equation, and it will be interesting to see how much of a factor it becomes on Selection Sunday.

3. Tougher Job Seeding
Illinois and North Carolina appear to be locks for No. 1 seeds. After that, you could see teams seeded 2-4 in this year's tourney that are as good as one of the other No. 1 seeds. Also, keep an eye on some of the No. 8 seeds, who could be capable of making a run and scoring a shocker. It makes for a great, competitive tournament.

4. Full Body of Work vs. Recent Results
The committee will have to measure a team's full body of work against how it finished. Maryland beat Duke twice, but how much will the Terps be hurt by their struggles down the stretch?

5. The Pod System
Is there more pressure on the committee to figure this out? The committee tries to be as fair as possible to as many schools as possible in shortening their travel. But is the process too complex?

I can't wait for March Madness – it's going to be awesome, baby! The NCAA Tournament is the best three weeks in all of sports.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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