KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Strength of schedule is the most important factor in determining which teams get at-large invitations to the NCAA postseason basketball tournament, the chairman of the NCAA basketball committee says.
"We try to be as fair as we can, especially for a school that has been in a conference that has been rated very weakly," Dick Schultz, athletic director at Virginia, said during a news conference conducted by telephone.
"We take a look at their non-conference games to see if they have really made an attempt to schedule teams in the top 50 and how they have done in those games. Strength of schedule is very important, especially when we get down to the finer points. We'll take a close look at quality wins and quality losses. Sometimes a close loss on the road is more important than a close win at home."
A committee of nine people will select teams for the tournament in three days of meetings in Kansas City. The 64-team bracket, which includes 29 teams which get automatic bids, will be announced next Sunday.
The tournament will be seeded so that teams from the same conference will not meet each other at least until a regional final.
"We've taken a look at that and this this year we're going to try to go back to the old policy of not replaying conference games until the finals of the regionals," Schultz said. "The schools are going to have to realize that this is going to mean some traveling. There are going to be schools from the same conference in the same regional, but they are not going to meet until the regional finals."
Schultz said 20 victories would not guarantee a team a spot in the tournament.
"I don't think there is a magic number," he said. "We've had teams in the tournament with 17 wins or 18 wins, but those were teams that played a really tough schedule and had a good success rate."
Players will be tested for drugs for the first time this year. Schultz said he expected results would be ready before second-round games. He said players testing positive would be ineligible for further play. In the future, teams will be bounced out of the tournament if a player tests positive.
Teams that make the Final Four would earn about $1.3 million, Schultz said. He said each game played is worth roughly $200,000 to a team.
Schultz said a tentative bracket that he drew up based on the latest Associated Press poll would have Nevada-Las Vegas, Iowa, Oklahoma and Texas Christian in the West; North Carolina, Temple, Syracuse and Illinois in the East; DePaul, Pitt, Kansas and Purdue in the Midwest and Indiana, Georgetown, Alabama and Clemson in the Southeast.
First-round games are scheduled March 12 and March 14. The Southeast Regional will be played at Kentucky and the East Regional will be played at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on March 19 and March 21. The Midwest Regional will be at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati and the West Regional will be at the Kingdome in Seattle on March 20 and March 22.
The Final Four semifinals will be March 28 and the finals will be March 30 at the Superdome in New Orleans.