Non-conference SOS is a key criterion

The way the NCAA tournament selection committee operates is still misunderstood. So much so that the committee annually conducts a mock selection for media and other officials to try to make the process more transparent.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner went straight to the source to get his information, picking the brain of Division I men's basketball committee chair Jeff Hathaway [the embattled UConn athletic director] and to gain the knowledge he needed to possibly put the Tigers in a better position to make the tournament.

"I talked to him about what is the committee going to look at as you go into next year for the '11-'12 year, and he talked about non-conference strength of schedule -- who you play, where you play and how you did," a smiling Pastner told the team's website. "So we really upped our non-conference strength of schedule. The fans wanted that. And even our buy games or guarantee games where we're not returning it to somewhere, we got good teams. So it's going to be a really, really tough non-conference schedule. We'll be tested early and often."

Non-conference strength of schedule, of course, is an important factor because its one that coaches actually have some control over while choosing which teams to schedule. It's information that's readily available at the selection committee table. And with Pastner getting it out of Hathaway that it's a criterion that could very well be emphasized, Memphis responded.

Memphis announced in June it would play at Louisville this season, with the Cardinals making a return trip the following season. It added onto a challenging schedule that also included entry into the loaded filed at the Maui Invitationals. According to The Commercial Appeal, the Tigers also scheduled Belmont, Tennessee and Xavier at home and Georgetown and Miami on the road.

Teams that want to stand a better chance of getting off the bubble should take note. Pastner has already done something about it.