Shortly after the 2004 NCAA Tournament bracket was revealed, selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby bluntly explained why Oklahoma State had to accept a No. 2 seed.
Bowlsby admitted that the committee did not take into account the Cowboys’ Big 12 win over Texas because it ended just minutes before the Selection Show aired.
“We have to move in some afternoon,” Bowlsby said at the time. “While we were in the process of seeding, we made the considered decision that we could no longer consider Oklahoma State to move to first grade because they hadn’t finished their game yet.”
While the Big 12 now wraps up its tournament the day before to avoid repeating the Oklahoma State scenario, the Big Ten, the SEC, and several other leagues still hold their titles on Selection Sunday. These leagues are willing to risk undermining their champion’s seeding because Sunday’s title games generate additional cash and exposure from college basketball stock enthusiast TV networks leading up to the Selection Show.
Although the committee often conditionally selects and sows the field by Saturday night’s postponed date, it takes considerable effort to ensure that Sunday’s matches are kept relevant. The committee creates as many contingency brackets as necessary to account for the various possible outcomes of the title game.
An emergency chip may be required in the event the bid thief wins his way to a field of 68 and shrinks the NCAA tournament bubble by one. or if winning or losing the title game is enough to upgrade or downgrade a team’s rank. Sometimes, a team that didn’t play on a Sunday might be affected.
“We’ll have Sundays where we have up to 16 to 18 emergencies ready,” Tom Burnett, former Southland Conference commissioner and 2022 selection committee chair, told Yahoo Sports. “What happens if Team A beats Team B? And is Team C affected based on that score? You want to have everything on the map the night before. It can’t be a straight decision based on the buzzer on Sunday afternoon.”
However, while Burnett insists that “Sunday matters” and that “no one ignores anything that happens that day,” he also acknowledges that the committee has a strict deadline. By midday Sunday, the panelists are to begin putting up the brackets so they can finish before the selection is shown.
“There are years when you’re really strapped for time and you have to move on,” said Burnett. “You can’t have a few more hours of discussion on a single Conference Championship game. You have to have your bow ready by the broadcast deadline.
“So I guess if anyone has an absolute idea that Sunday’s games matter or don’t matter one way or the other, I’d tell you it’s somewhere in between.”
No matter how many emergency brackets the committee prepares, some Big Ten and SEC coaches will still complain that their conference tournament results are not considered.
In 2016, the selection committee awarded Kentucky a lower seed rating and a tighter tie than Texas A&M even though the Wildcats edged out the Aggies in the SEC Championship Game. push it John Calipari files a complaint with ESPN’s Rhys Davis“Didn’t we play a basketball game today?”
Complaints increased last March when conference tournament results seemed less important than usual. Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and Iowa all received fewer seeds than expected despite winning their respective conference tournaments.
The day after the unveiling of last year’s NCAA Tournament class, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes admitted he was at a loss. The champion SEC Vols received only a No. 3 seed despite defeating Kentucky in the afternoon before Selection Sunday and Texas A&M just two hours before the Selection Show went on the air.
“Everyone said we were the top three seed in the SEC Tournament,” he said. Barnes told reporters. “It didn’t seem like the tournament helped us.
“If that’s the case, if the conference championship doesn’t mean anything and if the teams already scheduled for the tournament can’t improve their seeding, then we should stay home and let the teams that are trying to get into the tournament fight for that one bid.”
Ultimately, if the coaches think Sunday’s championship title games don’t matter, they should take it up with the conference commissioners. It’s the commissioners who have the power to decide that show and TV revenue aren’t everything and push back their convention sessions by a day.
“The fact is, it would help the committee if you had each tournament early and you could have a full discussion of the entirety of each team’s business,” Burnett said. “But TV clearly wants programs on Sundays, so the committee is doing the best job it can.”