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Tension will mount in NCAA Tournament selection room

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Indianapolis — For one more day of my charmed life I get to be Joe Lunardi with better hair. Except Lunardi just projects the NCAA Tournament field. In tandem with Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Dispatch, I get to be one of the 10 tandems filling in for one of the selection committee’s members.

Our final exercise Thursday night involved what's called, "scrubbing the seeds.”

The chairman starts with the No. 1 overall seed, in this case Indiana, compares it to the No. 2, Miami (Fla.), with their credentials put side-by-side on the wall. We didn’t go through the whole field that way, but the tournament committee, which has five days of meetings compared to our two, does. Duke, the third No. 1 seed, survived a comparison against Florida, the fourth No. 1.

After a comparison between Florida and the top No. 2 seed, Michigan State, those schools swapped places. Since Michigan State moved up a spot, it then was compared to Duke, but didn’t get moved past the Blue Devils.

During the scrubbing process, every team moved up a spot gets compared to the team now in front of it and every team that moves down a spot is compared to the team now behind it.

“Some years you’ll see a team just start dropping,” said tournament selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski, Xavier University’s athletic director. “One year a team dropped down an elevator shaft. It dropped about 20 spots.”

Kansas, seeded third, could move up or down during the scrubbing process. Also, since the fake conference tournament final isn’t until today (it’s a KU vs. Kansas State fake final), that result could rock the boat as well.

By the end of today’s session, in a window-less room full of snacks and hacks, we’ll have a mock tournament bracket.

If history is an accurate indicator, the room will grow most tense when the final spot or spots are debated.

Once shown how the bracketing process works, we will be armed to debunk myths, assured David Worlock of the NCAA.

For example, he said if a UCLA-Pittsburgh match-up happens at some point in the tournament, it won’t be because the bracket was rigged for the drama of control-freak (my words, not his) UCLA coach Ben Howland facing his former school.

“CBS does not have any input,” Worlock said. “TNT doesn’t have a say. It just doesn’t happen that way.”

They aren’t in the room.

For one more day, if only in fantasy land, I will have more power than TV networks. I’m in the room, encouraged to speak up. They’re on the outside, eating ice cream.

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