Indianapolis — Choosing 34 teams to receive at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament is always a difficult chore for the selection committee.
Committee chair Bob Bowlsby believes the more daunting task this year will be seeding the field of 65.
On Wednesday, one day before the 10 committee members begin meeting in Indianapolis, Bowlsby said in a conference call that sorting out the top half of the 65-team field might create the most debate.
"Between lines two and eight, it's going to be pretty muddy," said Bowlsby.
The challenge has already begun.
Coaches at schools like Indiana and New Mexico are lobbying for spots in the tournament.
Analysts are arguing how to split up the three Atlantic Coast Conference teams ranked among the nation's top five. No. 4 Kentucky and No. 6 Louisville have now taken their bitter in-state rivalry to a national level, which could have big implications when this year's pairings are announced Sunday.
Want more? Try Oklahoma State and Kansas, teams that stumbled late in the season but which played in the Big 12 -- a conference Bowlsby said has the No. 2 power ranking.
At this stage, the committee insists nothing, not even Illinois as a top seed, is certain.
"While Illinois has had a great season, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that they or anybody else is a No. 1 seed," Bowlsby said. "There's still a lot of basketball to be played."
Most of the major conference tournaments won't end until this weekend, making the committee's predicament even tougher.
Bowlsby, Iowa's athletic director, said the committee would closely monitor this week's games, especially those that pit teams like Indiana and Minnesota against each other. Both are so-called bubble teams and will meet for the third time Friday after splitting the first two meetings.
But it's not just the teams trying to get into the tournament that the committee will watch.
"There are times where we might say 'If A wins, we'll put them on the three line and if B wins, we'll put them on the three line and A on the four line,"' Bowlsby said.
Once the top four seeds are chosen, Bowlsby knows the real work -- and the controversy -- will begin. Most expect Illinois, the regular-season Big Ten champs, and North Carolina, the regular-season ACC champs, to receive No. 1 seeds.
Everything else appears debatable. The committee must decide whether No. 5 Duke deserves a top seed over Southeastern Conference champ Kentucky.
Bowlsby said conference RPI numbers had the ACC ranked first, Big 12 second, Big East third and Pac-10 fourth.
The committee also is using a revamped RPI system, one that could differ greatly from the one fans see. Some RPI systems have the ACC and Pac-10 rated one-two.
Recent results have also forced committee members into a major cram session.
"We've had a lot of shake-up in the past seven days," Bowlsby said.
There are debates over teams like New Mexico, 22-6 with an RPI rating in the mid-80s, a moderate conference power rating and a weak slate.
"The selection process is like a block-charge call, somebody will always be unhappy," Bowlsby said.