UK Men's Basketball

Ex-committee members: UK’s ideas for improving NCAA selection process not practical

UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart spoke to the media at the football team’s media day on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart spoke to the media at the football team’s media day on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Herald-Leader

The day after Selection Sunday, Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart provided a variation on the annual theme of Coach John Calipari being unhappy with seeding or sites or opponents or path to the Final Four or accommodations or scent of hotel soap or something.

Barnhart suggested ways the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee can better do its job.

“It should consider following the lead of the College Football Playoff Committee and release updates prior to Selection Sunday,” Barnhart said in a news release. The idea is this would enable coaches and players to better track a team’s positioning and made necessary adjustments.

Several people who have been in the room while the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee did its work dismissed the likelihood of learning anything from football. The committees’ jobs are as different as their sports.

“I don’t think it compares,” said former Virginia Coach Terry Holland, a member of the basketball committee from 1993 through 1998.

Football’s one-game-per-week schedule lends itself to updates.

“You get a whole week to analyze it, digest it and talk about it,” said former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who also served on the basketball committee and has been asked to help raise the profile of SEC basketball.

By contrast, basketball’s frenzy of games come at a daily clip. Any update might radically change within 48 hours.

Former coach and North Carolina State A.D. Les Robinson, once a member of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, described this volatility as “there might be a snowstorm one day, and next day it’s 90 degrees.

The basketball committee must decide 37 at-large bids from a pool of 90-plus teams, seed them, place them in brackets, send them to one of nine initial sites (counting the First Four in Dayton) that lead to four sites and then lead to the Final Four.

In football, there are only four bids and, say, 10 contending teams. “And,” Tranghese said, “you know ultimately all those teams are going to be playing in a (league) championship game.”

In other words, the league championship games do a lot of the work for the football committee.

Bill Hancock, the Executive Director of the College Football Playoff, has worked with both committees. He made those vaunted weekly updates in football sound like a marketing ploy.

“It adds pizzazz to the regular season ... ,” he said. “It has made fans in the SEC pay attention to what’s happening in the Pac 12 every week.”

And, Hancock added, “If we didn’t do the rankings, then other rankings would be perceived as real.”

The football committee typically meets from 1 p.m. on a Monday to noon on Tuesday.

“If the basketball committee does that, there are 30 games on Monday night that probably couldn’t be included in the (updated) rankings,” Tranghese said.

Calipari and Barnhart also suggested that basketball have a standardized way to judge teams. Then, in theory, coaches could tailor their schedules to better meet what the committee views as important. Instead, as Calipari lamented, each committee member is free to measure teams however he or she chooses.

“Different people did look at different things,” Holland said of his time on the Selection Committee. “And that wasn’t bad. In other words, you sort of covered the board in terms of things that should be looked at. If someone felt strongly, their voice would at least be heard and considered before moving on.”

Tranghese also was skeptical of a standardized system of measuring teams. “I don’t like rigidity,” he said.

Hancock said injuries and other extenuating circumstances enhance the need for flexibility.

“There are nuances that can only be evaluated by human beings,” he said.

Calipari has complained about the committee using a shifting set of criteria to evaluate teams. And changes have been made. For instance, the committee no longer uses a team’s performance in the season’s last 10 games as a guide. Hancock found that change “disappointing.”

But, Tranghese said the criteria in judging basketball teams does not change as much as it might appear.

“The problem you have is every year you change who the chair is,” he said. “So you have a different person talking every year. What you hear in 2011 is not what you’re hearing in 2013.

“This year, they talked about top-50 wins. Well, I can tell you top-50 wins have always been important. They just seemed to talk about it more this year.”

Mistakes are made

The Selection Committee makes mistakes. Les Robinson recalled when 16th-seeded East Tennessee State played in Nashville against No. 1 seed Oklahoma. With the crowd hyped by a local team threatening to take down a Golialth, the Sooners barely won, 72-71, and the committee learned a lesson.

“After the fact, we said, we should have shipped them out west somewhere,” Robinson said. “You don’t keep a little team home.”

Mike Tranghese recalled an incident in 1997, his first year on the committee. After the initial attempt to seed and bracket, another first-timer confided to Tranghese a serious mistake had been made.

“We’ve got this team on the seven-line,” longtime Santa Clara coach Carroll Williams said to Tranghese during a break. “To be perfectly honest with you, I think they can win a national championship.”

Tranghese suggested Williams tell the committee chair, former UK athletics director C.M. Newton.

So Williams did. Newton’s reaction? “He looked at Carroll like he had horns growing out of his head,” Tranghese said.

Ultimately, Newton trusted Williams’ judgment.

“We unraveled the middle of the board and took the team from the seven-line to the five-line,” Tranghese said. “Who was that team? Arizona. They won a national championship.”

Arizona defeated Kentucky in the 1997 finals.

Not a costly defeat

From a financial point of view, Kentucky Coach John Calipari would not consider last weekend’s NCAA Tournament game against Indiana a costly defeat.

Calipari’s contract no longer calls for bonuses for regular-season or post-season championships. Nor does he receive bonuses any more if Kentucky advances to various rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Calipari will receive a $2.1 million retention bonus if he remains UK coach on July 31. And he continues to receive a $50,000 bonus if the UK team has a Academic Progress Rate of 950 or better.

Spoils of victory

A series of tweets and a story in The Wall Street Journal by Steve Berkowitz inspired a look at the bonuses in John Calipari’s contract.

Berkowitz has been tracking the bonuses in coaches’ contracts as teams advance in the NCAA Tournament. Among his findings are:

▪  Roy Williams received $150,000 because North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16. That increased his bonuses this year to $275,000.

▪  Texas A&M’s regular-season SEC title and advancement to the Sweet 16 earned Billy Kennedy more than $725,000 in bonuses. The comeback against Northern Iowa (much assisted by Northern Iowa) gave Kennedy an additional $141,667 in bonuses.

▪  Middle Tennessee’s upset of Michigan State earned Coach Kermit Davis a $31,250 bonus (that equals one month of $375,000 base salary).

▪  When Texas Tech received an NCAA tournament bid, Coach Tubby Smith got a $50,000 bonus.

Murray vs. the best

Against teams that were ranked in either The Associated Press or coaches’ poll this season, UK leading scorer Jamal Murray made 43 of 111 shots (38.7 percent). He made 19 of 58 three-point shots (32.8 percent).

Against other opponents, Murray made 47.1 percent of his shots (201 of 427) and 42.9 percent of his three-point shots (94 of 219).

This difference could be attributed to ranked teams having better players, thus they defend better than other Kentucky opponents. Or ranked teams could better contain UK’s front line, thus using more resources on Murray and Tyler Ulis.

Not that ranked opponents “stopped” Murray. Against Duke, Louisville, Kansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M (twice) and Indiana, he averaged 17.6 points. That average would be the highest of any UK player in John Calipari’s seven seasons as coach.

Ulis vs. the rest

Tyler Ulis averaged 36.8 minutes this season. That’s the most since … when?

Kenny Walker averaged 36.7 minutes in 1984-85. So we have to go further back in the mists of time.

It would seem the last Kentucky player to average more minutes than Ulis in a season was Tom Parker. He averaged 37.9 minutes in 1971-72.

Dan Issel averaged 37.3 minutes in 1969-70 and 37.9 minutes in 1968-69.

An Issel teammate, Mike Casey, averaged 37.6 minutes in 1968-69.


To former Georgia coach Hugh Durham. Last week the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2016 inductees. Durham and other members of the class will be inducted on Nov. 18.

Durham, a native of Lyndon, Ky., is the only coach to lead two schools to their only Final Four appearance: Florida State in 1972 and Georgia in 1983.

Durham was the opposing coach in Adolph Rupp’s last game as Kentucky. Florida State beat UK 73-54 in the 1972 Mideast Region finals.

“People ask what game you remember or what game was the most meaningful,” Durham said. “I always say that game.”

A picture of a pre-game chat with Rupp is displayed in Durham’s home office.

As soon as he became aware of college basketball, Durham rooted for Kentucky. Ralph Beard was a boyhood hero.

One of Blanton Collier’s assistants, Ermel Allen, recruited Durham to play football for UK.

“I wanted to play basketball,” he said. “And I wasn’t good enough to play for Kentucky.”

So Durham played basketball for Florida State. One of his first coaching assignments was to coach a sorority intramural team. One of the players was his future wife, Malinda.

When asked to name the highlights of his coaching career, Durham said, “If you want something other than a sound bite, when you really reflect, it’s the relationships and thinking, hopefully, you’ve been able to gain something positive with all players.”

Then, Durham added a moment later, “This doesn’t sound very politically correct, but everything is about winning. They say you have to help kids develop. But if you don’t win, you’re not around.”

Other members of the Hall’s Class of 2016 are players Bob Boozer (Kansas State), Doug Collins (Illinois State), Lionel Simmons (LaSalle), Jamaal Wilkes (UCLA) and Dominique Wilkins (Georgia).

Mike Montgomery (Montana, Stanford, California) joins Durham as coaches to be enshrined.

Happy birthday

To Todd Bearup. He turned 49 on Friday. … To Alabama Coach Avery Johnson. He turned 51 on Friday. … To Charles Hurt. He turns 55 on Monday. … To Saul Smith. He turns 37 on Monday. … To Sean Woods. He turns 46 on Tuesday. … To former UK assistant coach Ralph Willard. He turns 70 on Tuesday. … To former UK football coach Hal Mumme. He turns 64 on Tuesday. … To Johnathan Davis. He turns 47 on Wednesday.

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton