Basketball Committee head answers questions about the selection process

NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee chairwoman Terry Gawlik. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics.
NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee chairwoman Terry Gawlik. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Athletics.

Terry Gawlik, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee, answered questions from media members after NCAA Tournament selections were announced Monday. The transcript of the session follows.

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Terry Gawlik, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.

TERRY GAWLIK: I’d like to thank our committee members for the countless hours they put in the process, not only watching games but meetings that we had across the country and the meeting sessions that we had to determine and build a bracket and the work they’ll do on the road at the host institutions as well.

The committee brings into the process the knowledge gained through watching all these games, and I believe we watched over 1200 games. And some folks had watched between 200 and 300 games individually.

So they seek input there various groups as well, including the coaches ranking and reviewing all the extensive team data that’s provided. And also the top 16 reveal that we did this year, the three reveals, was really helpful in building this bracket.

We believe we have put together a bracket that will result in a very exciting 2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship that will begin this week, continuing until we crown the national champion on April 2 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas at the 2017 Women’s Final Four.

Let the games begin. We can hardly wait.


Q. Let me ask, I heard you say on ESPN about sending South Carolina out to Stockton. If you could just expand on that, because I don’t understand the good of the game — that’s not a thing I understand as being one of the principles you guys go by. What I thought is that South Carolina’s closer to Oklahoma City than it is to Stockton. Are you saying that South Carolina was seeded lower than Baylor in your guys’ minds?

TERRY GAWLIK: No. You guys, as you know, the list we gave out as the seeds was UConn No. 1, Notre Dame No. 2. South Carolina No. 3 and Baylor No. 4. That was the true seed line in the No. 1 seed. But when the committee has the opportunity to positively affect site attendance and improve the experience for the student-athlete with geographic placement, that’s what we strive to do.

So we looked at this long and hard. So you start with UConn. They obviously went to Bridgeport. And you take the No. 2 team, it’s Notre Dame going to Lexington. So then the decision was do we go and take South Carolina and send them to Oklahoma City, which would have been in mileage closer but they’re going to have a flight anyway.

And we would have made Baylor take a flight as well. So the decision was to send Baylor up to Oklahoma City and South Carolina to Stockton.

Q. Just talk for a second on the last couple of teams that got in, I know it’s not one team or two teams you guys decide on it’s usually four or so. But seems like Michigan and Virginia were the two that got snubbed most than anyone else. Talk about the last two teams that got in.

TERRY GAWLIK: Certainly I can talk about that. We had obviously the last four that went in were in alphabetical order, Auburn, California, Purdue and UNI.

And the First Four out were George Washington, Michigan, South Dakota State and Virginia. In particular, you asked about Michigan. They had an overall 22-9 record, were 11-6 in conference. I think what set with the committee, in Michigan’s case, they only had limited wins in the left column. They had no top-50 — sorry, they didn’t have any wins in the left column. No top-50 wins at all. So no top 25, no top-50 wins, and their strength of schedule was 101.

They also had a bad loss to Xavier. At the time their RPI was 207, and they lost four out of the last five games. And as you know they lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

Q. Had one concerning Maryland. I’m just curious, if you continue through the overall process and also specific to where they ended up, does the fact that they’re a 3 in UConn’s bracket represent something that they’re on the row of 3s or zero is three? And was the loss against Ohio State, in the committee’s opinion, what cost them the 2?

TERRY GAWLIK: Again, when the committee takes a look at all these teams, obviously we look at the overall body of work. So their wins and loss considered, strength of schedule, RPI, et cetera. In Maryland’s case, defending the entire body of work was really, really difficult. It was tough, because we felt Maryland didn’t test themselves as the same manner as a team we were considering at the time.

They had 117 strength of schedule and that stood out to the committee in comparison with the top 16. And they had only three games with teams in the RPI top 25 and 13 games against teams against teams with an RPI of 150 or higher. So those were the factors in looking at Maryland.

Q. The specifics of a loss to UConn, but a very close loss, how did that factor in? Or was that simple one game against in this case the top team?

TERRY GAWLIK: I think you said it best. It’s one game in the whole consideration of it.

Q. I just spoke this evening with Coach Fernandez from the University of South Florida. He feels the committee may have overcompensated for geographic favorability at the expense of some seeding. What’s your response to that?

TERRY GAWLIK: Well, while I don’t have specifics in terms of the question that he’s asking for, what we have to realize is once we get below the 4 line which would be 1 through 16, then we have the ability to move teams up and down a line to allow for matchups that we don’t want conferences to face in the first and second round or hopefully in the semifinals of the regionals.

But we want to make sure that we do everything possible to look at those and make the bracket work.

Q. Talk for a second about Stanford, because obviously they couldn’t play at home. Did you guys try to keep them as close as possible to home by putting them in Kansas State? I don’t know about the other 7 seeds, but what was the thought of making them go to Kansas State for the first two rounds?

TERRY GAWLIK: That’s a great question, and you had it right on, because they were a 2 seed the line that we looked at was a 7 line. So we vetted all folks on the 7 line trying to be sensitive to time zones and what we thought would work best. And you have to figure in all the other factors in building the bracket. So Kansas State just worked out the best.

Q. And secondly, I know it’s a couple days off, but the weather that’s coming in through obviously the northeast right now, does that factor at all in what you guys do as far as trying to figure out when teams will play on a Friday and Saturday? I know ESPN is in charge of that, but do you have any sort of pull when teams might play with potential weather issues that may happen?

TERRY GAWLIK: Well, when we had our discussion yesterday with ESPN on, or was that today, today is the bracket. We had it this morning. My days are all running together now.

We didn’t even talk weather. In fact, we’ve been so locked up in our room, I looked out at the window and it was snowing here and we didn’t realize that. But, no, we don’t try to manage that, to manage around the weather. I’m sure Shorts is trying to figure things out as we speak because they’re obviously the department that handles all the travel.

So we don’t try to think ahead about the weather. I wish we could. But that would be something we can’t — so hopefully, knock on wood, everything works and all the teams get in where they need to go.

Q. The last two seasons Texas was eliminated by UConn. Do you consider this a reprieve for Texas, not to have been in the UConn bracket again this year, and give them perhaps a better chance to wind up in Dallas where their fan support might help the Final Four?

TERRY GAWLIK: First, before we start talking about that, hello. I’m so excited to be coming to Dallas for first-ever championship being held there. I’m a native Texan so it makes it all the better.

But to answer your question specifically, we do look at past competitions, and Texas had played UConn two times. So we did look at that and factor that in our decision-making when we were building the bracket.

Q. Does the fact that Texas might be able to bring more fans, did that factor into the decision not to put them in with UConn?

TERRY GAWLIK: No. We can’t predict who is going to win. That’s the beauty of having a bracket.

Q. Only one quick question for me. There’s been some commentary about how the committee, quote/unquote, must have overlooked our diminished conference play when they made this bracket up. Can you comment on that as any thoughts you might have on that assumption?

TERRY GAWLIK: I actually don’t know where that’s coming from, because we do consider conference play during the season and in the tournament. It’s not the number one factor but we do talk about games, because I think maybe perhaps they’re mishearing that we don’t — when I walk out of the room, I’ll put it this way, I couldn’t tell you how many teams are in from a certain conference or not. That’s not what we look at. We take the whole body of work and do the comparisons, and that’s how we build, well, select teams and seed them in the bracket.

Q. That’s good to know because you’ve mentioned you’ve watched 1200 games or whatnot yourself. I know I read that. That’s a lot of games.

TERRY GAWLIK: No, no, myself, I watch — I almost hit 300. But as a group, the numbers that we run is 1200. So that would mean, like, there might be five or ten of us watching one game. So Rick keeps count of making sure that we’re watching people, and we have monthly reports on who we need to watch. And, again, I think that top-16 ranking really helped us get an early start on it and talk about the teams early and really get people prepared more to do the bracket once we got here to Indy and started on Friday.

Q. Just a follow-up also on a specific decision that was made. Cal and Oregon, if you could take me through that in terms of Oregon had a better conference record. Cal did not play as well down the stretch. Just curious what decision-making process was to end up with Cal is a 9 and Oregon is a 10?

TERRY GAWLIK: So from your perspective, looking at the bracket, that’s where you see them now. In order to make the bracket work, we have procedural moves that we could make within our bracketing principles.

So once we get past the 4 line, a team can actually move up or down a line because as you can imagine it gets quite complicated in order not to have those conference matchups.

And, of course, we’re always sensitive to try to put teams in venues or areas where they can get to, and their fans in particular, can get to. So that was a procedural move in our bracketing principles.

Q. The question, and I’ve heard other people raise this as well is, Cal and Oregon being the same conference, what procedurally led you to Cal being the 9 and Oregon being the 10 in those particular spots?

TERRY GAWLIK: I don’t have all that information right here at my fingertips right this second. But when we vet those discussions, it just happens to work out if somebody’s there on the line — remember, you can go in — let’s say, for instance, you could go in on the 8 line and you’re in above — and we could move you up or we could move you down to make it work. But I’d have to go back and look at our notes and see in particular what we were, how they were moved there.

Q. Similar to what was just asked, but in terms of Drake and Northern Iowa, what was the circumstances that led to those two being on the same seed line given the head-to-head competition this year? And what role did that title game play in the conversation about UNI?

TERRY GAWLIK: Well, we did note as a committee looking at it that UNI and Drake did ended up on the same seed line, and I don’t recall if one was above or below the other, but, again, the same principles could apply, move them up or down a line to make sure the bracket works. We were tracking on all the conference championships, all the way through the conference championships, watching games and whatnot.

So watching that UNI/Drake game, that was pretty exciting. And then we vetted the information that we had in front of us with all the numbers and whatnot and watching the games and went from there.

As a follow-up, UNI did have the two top-25 wins against Creighton and Kansas.

Q. Tell us about your challenges this year and your feelings coming out overall with the bracket. And obviously we start play this weekend?

TERRY GAWLIK: Now I’m a little worried about the weather. I think that might be one of our biggest challenges. Hopefully we don’t have to move some games around. But certainly as you get on this committee and it’s a five-year commitment, it’s my last year, so it’s been a great opportunity to get to meet all the NCAA people and meet some good friends.

But really, for the love of the game and looking at all the teams and trying to build a bracket and being the most fair, I think that the biggest challenge would be, I guess, certain pinch points, you’d call them, if you will.

So obviously the No. 1 seed line. That always gets a lot of discussion, who is where and how does that shake out. And certainly the top 16 now because they get to host.

So when you’re going to make that 16 to 17 turn, you better have good information and good intel and have your decision made who is going to go in the 1 through 16 lines. And in this case obviously Stanford couldn’t host, so that was unfortunate. So then we even had to go down to the 7 line and figure that out.

And then certainly putting the last teams in and the last teams out, I mean that’s hard. That’s really, really hard. I believe we had 11 teams we were talking about for the last four slots. So somebody’s not going to make it. And that’s always hard. And people can always say, well, such and such went in and such and such went out; how did you make that decision? And we just took the information we had, all the stuff I talked about earlier, watching games, all the numbers. And you have 10 people in the room that all have 10 different ideas and you work through it and you come to a vote and build a 64-team bracket.