College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 13, 2013, 10:05 AM ET
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com


A few words on the committee that actually decides this whole thing

Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Tuesday, Feb. 12.

The NCAA tournament selection committee has come a long way.

By which I mean: We know what the NCAA tournament selection committee is, we know what it does, we know whom it comprises.

These may seem like baseline expectations. But for years the process gave off the same vague vibe as the back room at a mid-century political party convention, replete with middle-aged white men smoking cigars, slapping backs and haggling over tournament bids with as minimal rigor as possible. And then everyone played golf.

That (probably) wasn't the case, but the point is, to the outside observer, that's what it felt like. Fans didn't know how these things worked. Dark insinuations -- of committee members jobbing rival programs or coaches they didn't like; of members not being "basketball people" and thus casual about the entire enterprise -- were easy to make.

It's not so easy anymore. In recent years, the NCAA -- led by former VP Greg Shaheen -- has made great strides in increasing transparency of the selection process. Every year it invites various media members to participate in a mock bracket exercise, which is one part education and one part simulation, and is no less nerdy than your average "Dungeons and Dragons" game. It's easy to get a feel for the mechanics of the process, to see how the NCAA organizes its information, to understand how all of these discrete decisions come together in the course of just a few days.

Plus, the committee members are no longer opaque. Far from it. Indeed, the committee chair is always very visible, and not only on the Selection Sunday post-reveal grilling. In recent years, committee chairs have begun participating in conference calls and taking media interviews far before the bracket is due. Current chair Mike Bobinski appeared on Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg's college basketball podcast Monday, where he talked extensively about his philosophy on the committee. On Wednesday afternoon, he will conduct his first conference call with the media.

You still hear some of the old conspiracy talk from time to time. (The Washington Post's John Feinstein has remained stubbornly convinced the process can't be transparent until the actual committee room has cameras in it.) And not every committee chair is good at articulating the specific reasons behind certain decisions. (Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was particularly frustrating on this front.)

But the bottom line is both media members and fans can now understand NCAA tournament selection in ways we never could before. The process, to a large extent, has been demystified. That allows us to be more exacting with our criticisms, sure -- and we'll have a lot more of those before the 2013 Bubble Watch finishes its work -- but it also allows us to recognize that, at the end of the day, it's just a bunch of people in a room trying to figure out college basketball. We can all identify with that.

Without further ado, here's your second edition of the 2013 Watch. (Last week's first edition covered the season recap need-to-knows. From here on out, we'll be focusing on the latest weekly results.)