Tourney Talk: CHD interviews selection committee member Scott Barnes

Scott Barnes has been Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Utah State since 2008. This year he served as vice chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee, which is in charge of putting all 68 teams into a bracket on Selection Sunday. CHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Scott about who gets in, what they have to do to get in, and surviving the busiest weekend of his entire year.


How many hours per day did you work on selection stuff last week, and what changes would you suggest to make your life easier on Selection Sunday? 24 hours a day: when we are asleep we are still dreaming about it! Other than a workout or a meal we are either watching games or looking at sheets. In a perfect world we would complete conference championships by noon on Sunday, but TV dictates all of that.

How many games would you estimate you have watched this season, and what role does the “eye test” play for you (if any)? I watched hundreds of games but could not guess an exact number. I watch all the games: I watch a majority of entire games and a large part of others. The eye test is important because many of us have played and coached in the past, but this year due to the parity I think the eye test came into play even more than normal due to so many teams with near-identical resumes.

Which primary conferences were you assigned to this year, and how much weight do you give to input from representatives of these conferences? We all get 7-8 as either primary or secondary. The conference monitor works with the conference office and sits in on several calls during the year: the input we get from them is quite helpful.

What are the major categories that affect a team’s seed (big road win, bad home loss, other), and why do you consider them to be more important than other categories? There are so many variables to the process. We all look at things a bit differently, but some of the things I value are top-50 wins and overall strength of schedule (SOS), both in and out of conference.

How do you value conference road wins vs. non-conference road wins? It depends on the quality of the conference, but even more on the quality of your opponent. If you are in a bad conference then it might bring your metrics down, but you can go play a team from a better conference and try to get your metrics back up.

How important is a team’s “signature win”? It is important, particularly if it is on the road against a marquee program.

What role do injuries and suspensions have on a team’s seed? When you are missing a student-athlete we will literally dial it down, although it depends on whether the kid is playing two minutes a game or 32 minutes game.

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 would say a nice mix of both. You can only guess how good an opponent will be when you first make your schedule, and sometimes it just turns out that they are really bad. As a committee we can tell if schools have tried to schedule well outside their conference, as that is one thing that you can try to control even if it does not always come to fruition. You want to play solid RPI teams on the road who you can beat and try to catch fire in a bottle with an occasional upset, but you do not want to play an eight-game stretch against a Murderer’s Row of top-25 teams. In my opinion, scheduling too many non-D-1 games is not that helpful.

When you are compared to the College Football Playoff committee in the future, what significance is there to the fact that 1 is governed by the NCAA and 1 is not? We will see what materializes in football, but as they look at the success of our own committee I think some of our concepts and philosophies may be adopted, although it is a much smaller sample of teams with 4 rather than 68. Football is definitely a different animal than basketball.

What is your reaction to people who complain that NC State got in and SMU did not? The pundits throw darts at the bracket every year, and it is not an exact science.  If you look at the 4 teams we placed ahead of SMU, each of them had a SOS in the top-50, while SMU has a SOS outside the top-100 and a non-conference SOS that was almost outside the top-300.