NEC’s Ralph Ventre Spends Summer Weekend Taking Crash Course on NCAA ‘Bracketology’ in Indy

Ralph Ventre, the Northeast Conference’s public relations contact for women’s basketball, was part of a select group of head coaches and conference administrators who ascended upon Indianapolis this past weekend for the NCAA Mock Selection Exercise.  Quinnipiac head coach Tricia Fabbri, who ranks second on the all-time NEC wins list, was also part of the two-day program.  In the Overtime! exclusive below, Ralph shares his thoughts on the weekend and the selection process.


Summer weekends are usually synonymous with the beach, barbequing, baseball, and a number of other outdoor activities. 

For a group of 30 NCAA women’s basketball coaches and administrators, however, this past weekend had nothing to do with fun in the sun.

Instead, this collection of men and women convened in Indianapolis where they participated in the NCAA Mock Selection Exercise.

Just as the 10-member NCAA women’s basketball committee does for four days every March, these folks bunkered down in a conference room and attempted to piece together a 64-team championship bracket.  Along the way, the eclectic mix of coaches and administrators, representing schools and conference from all across America, learned a great deal about the not-so-mysterious Selection Process.

Only seconds after the NCAA releases the basketball championship bracket via its annual Monday night Selection Show on ESPN, the questions and comments emerge at a rapid rate.

How did this team get in?  How did this team not get in?  Team A is really only a No. 4 seed?  How could that be?

Nearly every fan and college hoops reporter feels the need to chime in.

Some go as far as throwing around accusations of hidden agendas and conspiracy.

If only these folks knew the amount of work and time that the selection process entails, then maybe their cynicism would be tempered.

To be honest, there is really nothing to be cynical about.  Take my word for it as I was fortunate enough to be there in Indy this past weekend.

The amount of thought and research that goes into the process is rather remarkable.

An easy task it is not, but the Selection Process is one of integrity.  Although critics may disagree with the end results, aka the final bracket, they can assure themselves it was concocted through fair and honest means.

A combination of factual information and actual eyewitness accounts of teams’ play is used to determine the top-33 at-large teams. 

Contrary to the conspiracy contingent that exists amongst public opinion, the process is about finding the 33 teams most deserving of selection regardless of conference affiliation or geographic location.

It all begins back in November when the 10 committee members start watching games.  On average, each of the members will see around 150 contests throughout the season.

After spending five months eating, drinking, and sleeping college basketball, these folks come together in March to hammer out the bracket in what is a three-phase process.

The proceedings begin with each committee member submitting an “initial ballot” of no more than 33 teams who, in the committee members’ eyes, are deserving of at-large qualification.  Committee members are also allowed to designate any number of additional teams who they believe should at least receive some sort of consideration for a berth (note that any regular season conference champion is automatically considered in the at-large conversation).

Phase No. 1 continues with committee members comparing teams within groups and ranking them.  After hours and hours of deliberation, ranking, and voting, a list of 33 at-large qualifiers emerges.

It is not until this point that Phase No. 2 of the process – Seeding – begins.  After the 33 at-large teams and 31 auto qualifiers are seeded from 1 through 64, bracketing (Phase No. 3) begins.

No phase begins until its predecessor is complete.  It goes selections, seeding, and then bracketing.  The order of the process helps to ensure that only the best 33 at-large teams will be selected regardless of what conference a team may be from or if a team is slated as a pre-determined host site.

No human process is perfect, and not everyone will agree with the committee’s selections from year to year.

With that said, you can be assured that there are 10 different basketball people with 10 different perspectives working tirelessly for five straight months in an attempt to ensure the integrity of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Bracket.

This past weekend, I was privileged enough to walk in the shoes of a committee member and take part in a process that was more about intricacy and nothing about conspiracy.

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