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Inside the March Madness selection process

Jeff Konya

Northeastern Athletic Director Jeff Konya arrived in Indianapolis last Thursday morning ready and eager to get to work. He is one of 10 members of the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Committee, which on Monday will release this year’s NCAA tournament bracket after having spent these past days holding final discussions and debates about the field, voting for the teams they believe should receive at-large bids, and assigning seeds to the 64 teams.

“It’s almost like a jury sequestering, being under lock and key, until Monday midday,” Konya said, jokingly, in a phone interview last week.

The committee’s work, though, began months earlier. Each member is assigned specific conferences to follow throughout the season, and the committee meets multiple times prior to selection weekend to discuss the selection process as well as the teams and conferences they’re monitoring. A big part of that process is watching games; Konya estimates he’s seen between 60 and 70 throughout the season. “There’s been a great amount of preparation coming into this weekend,” he said.

This is Konya’s first year of a three-year term on the selection committee. What advice did he get from colleagues around the league about the role? “Know your stuff.” He’s taken that to heart.

While Konya is just starting his selection-committee term, this is the first year in awhile that former Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby has been away from the process. Last season he wrapped up a five-year term on the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee. He acknowledged he’s felt a bit melancholy lately, thinking both about missing that role and his recent retirement as Northeastern’s AD. Then he’s reminded of the massive time and travel commitment committee members make, and he feels a little better.

The men’s basketball tournament bracket was released on Sunday night. Roby said the final selection weekend can be a bit of a whirlwind, as the committee is trying to finalize its bracket while some conferences are still playing their championship games. It involves hours of discussion and deliberations, and the clock is ticking. He recalled one year the committee had about a dozen contingency brackets prepared heading into Selection Sunday to account for the various scenarios that could play out in games that day. Committee members also use bracketing technology to help them seed teams and finalize the brackets.

Both Konya and Roby said they deeply appreciate the professional relationships they formed from working so closely with fellow committee members. For Roby, one of the most special moments came in 2015 when Northeastern won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and earned a No. 14 seed in the Big Dance.

Peter Roby

“It was the most wonderful feeling. I’d always wondered what that would feel like,” Roby said of serving as a committee member at the time when the Huskies made the tournament. In fact, by rule, committee members aren’t allowed to be in the room when their conferences and schools are being discussed in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest. It’s not too often being asked to leave the room is a dream come true.

Once the committee had completed the bracket, Roby went into a break room, opened his computer, and watched the live stream of the selection show. He already knew the Huskies’ seed and their opponent (No. 3 Notre Dame), but he couldn’t wait to see the reaction of the team and fans gathered at a campus watch party at Cabot Center when those details were announced. “Everyone went crazy,” Roby said. “That’s a memory I’ll never forget.”

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