The NCAA is changing the rules for the criteria used to select at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament. Until now, the Committee has placed an emphasis on how a team finished the year moreso than how it started — which effectively dimished the value of the bulk of the out-of-conference slates for most teams. From the NCAA News:
The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee has decided to no longer consider the results of a team’s last 12 games as one of the tools available in the selection criteria for the 2009-10 season.
While the basketball committee uses several variables when it comes to selecting the 34 at-large teams that are placed into the bracket each March, its members concluded that college basketball stakeholders were confused by the last 12 games being part of the process.
“As the committee continues to hone its message regarding how it views the season, parsing a particular segment of games and implying it had greater weight than others seemed misleading and inconsistent,” said committee chair and Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive. “The removal of this reference avoids confusion in the room and brings our reporting in line with our process.”
This is probably one case where the NCAA has gotten things right with a selection criteria change. Now teams will need to come out of the gate strong, knowing that each and every contest they play — whether it is November or in March — will have equal value at the end of the year when tournament teams are selected. That in an of itself should sharpen pre-season practices and the late Fall games.
Another way it is in improvement is that sometimes, some of the best games of the year are in November and December even in the venerable ACC. In particular, that’s when you have your best chance of seeing a major-conference – mid-major matchup, and as the Big Dance itself has repeatedly shown, these games can and are between two Tournament-worthy squads and produces some exceptional basketball. It’s also usually when inter-sectional matchups happen, say a Kansas – NC State game. In the past, the results of those games have not mattered as much due to the Final 12 emphasis, which for the most part are exclusively in-conference affairs.
From an NC State hoops perspective, however, this may be something that hurts more than helps in the short-haul. The Pack will be a very young team this year, and it is more likely than not that they will not be as good a team in December that they are in February. While this is true of most teams, it is more true of teams like the one that State will put on the floor this season. An old saw is that a freshman is no longer a freshman come February or March, and that’s really what State will have -raw talent working itself into a team in the beginning with hopefully a cohesive and highly functional unit towrds the end of the year. With the new selection criteria in place, State will be forced to grow up faster than they may be able to do — that is, if they plan to be an NCAA team this March.