On the eve of the first teleconference with the NCAA Tournament selection committee chair, we wanted to get some answers in advance.
Through correspondence with someone either currently on the committee or who has been on in the past or who is just an adviser for the committee, here are a few questions and answers that apply to this season:
1. How do nonprotected teams get seeded geographically?
A nonprotected tournament team is any team with lower than a top-five seed. What we're looking at here is, can a school like a No. 11- or 12- or 13-seeded Penn play in Philadelphia and ultimately have home-court advantage?
The answer is that the top five seeds in each region are protected from having a home-court disadvantage in their first-round games. So a No. 11 seed could have a home-court advantage at a site like Philadelphia's Wachovia Center, but any seed lower than that cannot.
2. How will injuries play a role in the selection process?
This applies to a number of teams, notably Cincinnati playing without Armein Kirkland, Alabama sans Chuck Davis, and UCLA with no Josh Shipp.
The answer is that teams will be judged by the results with and without the player, and each member of the committee will assess the importance of that player. Here's something we didn't know: Apparently the committee also will look at the number of points the missing player averages and look how many points the team lost a game by to see whether that player's production could have made up for the loss.
Injuries can affect seeding (see Cincinnati after Kenyon Martin's broken leg in 2000) maybe more than selection. If the injured player might return, it's key for the committee to know exactly what his status is for March before making a full evaluation.
3. Does the committee try for specific matchups?
We say this over and over again because the committee hammers this point to us: It doesn't look at matchups. So even though it makes sense to have a dream Duke-Gonzaga game (featuring J.J. Redick vs. Adam Morrison), the committee claims it doesn't try to create any special meetings of former rivals, coaches, etc.
Said one former committee member: "Most fans believe that the committee purposely puts teams on lines looking for interesting matchups, but this is totally not true. It's not done to have matchups. It's not done to not have matchups, either."
4. If there are five teams playing for four No. 1 spots, wouldn't the fourth No. 1 end up with the team left out as the top No. 2 seed in the same bracket?
One committee member said that's not always the case because of the need for balancing the bracket. But it's a good bet that it could occur. Need an example? "Think Saint Joe's-Oklahoma State [from 2004]," said our source knowledgeable with the inner workings of the committee. He's right. Saint Joe's got the No. 1 seed while Oklahoma State earned a No. 2. There were strong arguments for both to be a No. 1, but they ended up playing each other anyway in a classic Elite Eight matchup in New Jersey.
5. How hard will it be to determine the No. 2s and 3s in this bracket?
The committee members say the pool for No. 1s is pretty small. But there are a slew of teams that could take the next several slots. Said one former committee member, "Most of the time, there is very little difference between 2s and 3s." The bigger issue will be the second-round matchups and how those play out with respect to seeding.
6. How soft, or large, is the bubble?
Well, one committee member said it will be hard to come up with 34 at-large teams. Another said that on the first ballot there are usually 20-something locks, at the very least, but he said that number could be down to 15 -- an all-time low -- since there are so many teams on the bubble. With two full weeks left in the regular season and three before Selection Sunday, it seems there are more teams in play than ever before for potential bids.
7. How hard is it to get into the field with double-digit losses from a mid-major conference?
One committee member said double-digit losses aren't a good thing but don't have to be a deal-killer. The key thing -- and this could help a team like Syracuse -- is who the losses are against. If a Missouri Valley Conference team reaches double-digit losses, it will be viewed differently than a Big East team with a similar number.
8. How will the committee seed as many as eight teams from a conference?
The committee has given itself a bit more leeway in the bracket to allow a potential meeting earlier than the Elite Eight. Still, the possibility of this occurring with Big East teams will make for some long days in trying to figure out the balancing of the bracket.
"I'm glad I don't have to deal with this one," one former committee member said.
9. How often do schools or conferences lobby for their teams, especially when dealing with injury and eligibility reports?
"You would be surprised by how much information is supplied," one former committee member said. Apparently, there is constant updating of information throughout the week leading up to Selection Sunday.
10. How will the committee handle a team with a stellar record from a weak conference (see: Gonzaga in WCC, George Washington in A-10 and Memphis in C-USA)?
"I personally think this is one of the hardest things the committee has to do," said one former member. "You've got to project how a team may or may not compete if they were in a different conference."
This is an old debate about the games you can control versus the ones you can't. The answer from the committee is, "Who did they play? Where did they play? How did they do? Does it appear they made an effort to schedule competitive nonconference games?"
This is a case where Memphis (nonconference SOS is a 4, but overall 41) and Gonzaga (nonconference SOS is 23, but overall is 102) will get a bump because of their nonconference schedules while GW (nonconference SOS is 322 while overall is 262) will be dragged down by its poor strength of schedule.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.