Sowing the seeds we love: HoopsHD interviews Selection Committee member/UNC Asheville Director of Athletics Janet Cone

Repost of February 20, 2018 interview by Jon Teitel:

For those of you who simply could not wait 3 more weeks until Selection Sunday to find out what the Selection Committee was thinking, the top-16 teams were revealed in a sneak preview on February 11th. This was not a crystal ball previewing exactly which schools will be protected seeds on March 11th…although 3 of the #1 seeds from last year’s preview DID become #1 seeds last Selection Sunday (Gonzaga/Kansas/Villanova). Rather, it served as a peek behind the curtain at what the committee was thinking and what criteria they were using in their analysis of everyone’s body of work. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Selection Committee member Janet Cone about how schools put together a schedule and how her Bulldogs are doing this season.

How many hours/week have you been working on selection stuff this month, and what changes would you recommend to keep your fellow committee members from losing their sanity on Selection Sunday? On Sunday after watching my men’s team play and taking care of a few things I spent 3 hours watching games/looking up information/reviewing my notes. We have a framework of how to follow schools but each of us develops the best way to do it efficiently/effectively. I probably spend a minimum of a couple of hours each day working on it, including an hour each morning as I am working out at 4:30AM. I realized a couple of things after first joining the committee. You have a couple of new people each year but 7-8 of us have experience and can share our best practices so that each of us can do the very best job possible. The NCAA staff is so well-organized with their team sheets and can help us look up anything else we need. We also use Synergy so we can go back and watch any important games that we missed.

Which primary conferences are you assigned to this year, and how much weight do you give to input from representatives of these conferences? We have 3-4 conference calls throughout the season. I have 4 conferences as the primary contact and 4 as the secondary contact. We try to get updates on injuries, previews of key games to watch, etc. I keep a notebook and am really fortunate that the conference representatives have provided me with very good information. I am not advocating for any conference: just providing information to the rest of the committee. I have had the SEC in the past, the CAA, the SoCon, the MVC, etc. However, I can never have the Big South because my school (UNC Asheville) is part of that.

What are the major categories that have the biggest impact on a team’s seed (big road win, bad home loss, other), and why are they more important than other categories?What I do is look at as much information as I can to see a school’s whole resume: who you played, where you played, etc. I use the team sheet/nitty gritty sheet, look at injuries, and watch a lot of games.

This season the committee has implemented a new 4-tier system that emphasizes the location of wins/losses: has it made your life easier/harder, and do you think that this new system renders the “eye test” a thing of the past? The new quadrants help us pay more attention to neutral/road games. I also like some of the other metrics that they have added to the top of the team sheets. I am doing my homework by getting the whole breadth of what a team has done throughout the season.

What role do injuries (such as Rawle Alkins of Arizona)/suspensions (such as Terrence Phillips of Missouri) have on a team’s seed (if any)? If I know that a school is missing 3 starters and still wins a game on the road, it makes me think “wow”, while if they lose that game then I will circle that 1 as a discussion point. When we get to New York it is such a paper-thin difference to see which schools are better than other schools. This year you will watch a game on a Tuesday and think that the result is an upset…but then the next night it might not seem as big of an upset depending on what else happens.

If a team wants to make the tourney, are they better off scheduling decent teams who they think they can beat, or great teams who they can only hope to upset, or a nice mix of both, or other? I am an athletic director so I realize that after playing your conference schedule you only have a certain # of games left to play. Some schools need to schedule guarantee games but it is also important to challenge yourself on the road. We also look for good competition in our neutral/home games. As a former women’s coach I always said that scheduling is an art AND a science.  The conference you are in will also determine your non-conference schedule: if you are in a mid-major conference with a couple of teams who are struggling then you might need to schedule some power-conference teams in non-conference play.

For those who want to compare your committee to the College Football Playoff committee, what significance (if any) is there to the fact that 1 is governed by the NCAA and 1 is not? I think the biggest difference is that in football you only play 1 game/week. What makes our committee different is that there are games going on every single night so the rankings are constantly changing, which makes it more challenging for us.

Your UNC Asheville Bulldogs are 19-10 and tied with Winthrop atop the Big South standings: how proud are you of all that they have accomplished? We play Winthrop this Thursday night on ESPNU. I am very proud of what our student-athletes/coaches have done: our 4 seniors (Raekwon Miller/Ahmad Thomas/Kevin Vannatta/Alec Wnuk) just became the winningest senior class in the history of our school!  As a fan I cannot wait until Thursday but regardless of whether we win or lose we just have to come back ready for our next game on Saturday.

Earlier this year NCAA tournament media coordinator David Worlock stated that for the 1st time you and the other committee members will see many other rankings on the official team sheets in addition to the traditional RPI (such as BPI/KPI/KenPom): have you made great use of these advanced metrics in the past, and do you have a favorite 1? I do not have a favorite because I use a lot of different ones for comparison purposes. I try to soak up as much information as I can but the bottom line is that I only get 1 vote so I am just trying to have the very best information and get the very best teams into March Madness. I will watch as many games as I can without getting overwhelmed.

For the 2nd straight year the selection committee unveiled its top-16 seeds in February: what was the reaction like to this year’s unveiling, and what was the most important conclusion from this year’s snapshot? It was a little different this year because we met on a Thursday and did not release the seeds until Sunday so we needed to have a few phone calls in between. When they decided to do it last year I was unsure if it would be a good idea but the public seems to have enjoyed the unveiling. It is just a snapshot of 1 particular day so it changes all the time.

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