The 1985 NCAA Basketball Tournament will eliminate 63 teams over the next three weeks with the survivor of that 64-team field being crowned the national champion on April 1 in Lexington, Ky.
Vic Bubas won't be crowned anything. He and his NCAA selection committee will in all liklihood hear more curses than praise. That's because they have to eliminate 218 teams in one weekend.
Chairman Bubas and his nine-member committee were to cloister themselves in a Kansas City hotel room this weekend to determine the who and where of the 1985 NCAA Tournament bracket. They will dole out 35 at-large berths, seed all 64 teams and scatter them across the country at sub-regionals in such places as Albuquerque, Tulsa, Dayton and Hartford. The tournament field is to be announced late this afternoon.
The tournament field is 11 teams larger than the 53 teams of a year ago but that expansion has not necessarily made the job of Bubas and his committee any easier. There are 282 teams that play NCAA Division I basketball and the vast majority won't be invited to compete for the national title.
"The 64-team field makes it easier from the standpoint that we are able to say we accommodated more teams," said Bubas, the commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference. "But it's also more difficult because the farther down you get on the list, the more parity you find. There are going to be hairline differences.
"There are 29 automatic qualifiers so you've got 35 (teams) to go. It's not hard to pick the next 21 teams: the avid basketball fan could pick those. But the next 14 are very, very difficult and the final six or seven are near impossible.
"A lot of people don't realize that last year more than 20 teams had 20-win seasons and did not get in. There's no magic number for victories. There are going to be some disappointments. A team that just missed could go on to win the NIT and their fans could say, 'You see, you were wrong.' Maybe we were. But somebody has to take the responsibility (of rounding out the field) and we try to be as conscientious and as fair as we can. There's no use hiding from the responsibility."
In addition to Bubas, the committee includes athletic directors Gene Corrigan of Notre Dame, Cedric Dempsey of Arizona, Arnie Ferrin of Utah, Dave Hart of Missouri, Fred Schaus of West Virginia, Dick Schultz of Virginia, Dick Shrider of Miami (Ohio) and Frank Windeggar of Texas Christian.
Bubas likes the expanded 64-team field, primarily because it eliminates first-round byes. In recent years, the top four seeded teams in the East, Mideast, Midwest and West Regionals did not have to play until the second day of the sub-regional against a first-day winner.
"It was not fair for the 16 top teams in the past to draw a bye," Bubas said. "It was no bargain for them because they had to play their first game against a pretty darn good basketball team that had already played and was over its opening-game jitters. It makes a big difference.
"It will also be great for the fans since they will now see four games on the first day instead of two. Those games will include some of the nation's best teams, best coaches and best players since all teams will have to play in the first round."
The committee has a number of aids in its selection of the at-large teams. There are four regional advisory committees composed of Division I coaches that the NCAA selection committee contacts twice each season--once in February and once in March--to solicit opinions on teams.
Those regional advisory committees consist of:
East--Jim Calhoun of Northeastern, Larry Costello of Utica, Gerry Gimelstob of George Washington, Pat Kennedy of Iona, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Tom Miller of Cornell, Gary Williams of Boston College and Charles Woollum of Bucknell.
Southeast--Don Corbett of North Carolina A & T, Mel Hankinson of Samford, Sonny Smith of Auburn, Marty Fletcher of VMI, Dana Kirk of Memphis State, Ron Greene of Murray State and Glenn Wilkes of Stetson.
West--Hank Egan of San Diego, Dave Gaines of San Diego State, Marv Harshmann of Washington, Mike Montgomery of Montana, Bill Mulligan of UC Irvine, Gerald Myers of Texas Tech and Terry Don Phillips of Southwestern Louisiana.
The selection committee also has access to a computer ranking of teams compiled by the NCAA statistics bureau. The NCAA's Rating Percentage Index (RPI) weighs a team's winning percentage against Division I opponents, the winning percentage of a team's opponents and the strength of a team's schedule. Then the teams eligible for the tournament are rated 1 through 282.
"If we do not place a premium on the caliber of the opponent," Bubas said, "everybody will stack their schedule with weak opponents, get over 20 wins and in some cases play nobody with a reputation. That's not fair to the teams that put it on the line from December to March in practically every game.
"But not every institution can get the kind of tough schedule it wants. Some teams are helpless because the bigger schools won't play them. What we're left with as a committee is a judgment call; no computer or advisory board can help us on that problem. But in the last year or so we've seen many institutions seek tougher schedules. The word is getting around about the selection process and how it helps to schedule better oppositon."
Bubas pointed out that Virginia of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) was awarded an at-large berth in 1984 despite a 17-11 record. The committee passed over the likes of 25-game winner Lamar, 24-game winner New Mexico, 23-game winner Montana and 22-game winner Weber State in order to invite Virginia--and the Cavaliers wound up in the Final Four.
"We want to know how a team fared against the Top 50," Bubas said. "Where were those games played and who won? Then we look at how a team fared against the Top 100. In Virginia's case, every one of its 11 defeats was against a Top 50 team and many of those went down to the final shot of the game.
"We listen to the coaches and respect what they have to say because they're in the trenches. We also look at the polls and the computer rankings. But all those are aids and nothing more than that. The committee selects the teams--period. No one tells us what to do. The final decision is ours."
The automatic berths are awarded to 29 conference champions: the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Eight, Big Sky, Big Ten, East Coast (ECC), Ivy, Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC), Metro, Mid-American (MAC), Mid-Eastern Athletic, Midwestern City, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA), Pac-10, Southeastern (SEC), Southern, Southland, Southwest, Southwestern Athletic (SWAC), Sun Belt, Trans-Am, West Coast Athletic (WCAC), Western Athletic (WAC) plus the three regional winners in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic (ECAC).
The long hours by the committee this weekend will be spent selecting the other 35 most representative teams. And the committee does not take that task lightly.
"At the end of the session," Bubas said, "I go home emotionally and physically drained. I've coached--I know what it's like waiting for that phone call (from the NCAA). There are a lot of people waiting on you. We have a job to do and we do it. We're not perfect . . . but I think we've done a very, very good job in a very inexact science."