GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Conrad Hotel in downtown Indianapolis includes a spa, art gallery and wine bar, opulence unavailable this weekend to the 10 men and women of the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee sequestered on the 18th floor.
Shadowed by security and fed by caterers, their task is to choose 36 at-large teams to accompany 32 automatic qualifiers, then seed and bracket the field in time for CBS' 6 p.m. Selection Sunday show.
Such subterfuge has emerged in this age of social media, camera phones and torrent of news leaks as the NCAA guards the most anticipated unveiling in sports.
There is no mystery for state teams this season in terms of inclusion. Virginia and VCU, the commonwealth's best since opening day, will make the 68-team field, the Cavaliers for the second time in three years under Tony Bennett, the Rams for the fourth consecutive time under Shaka Smart.
Virginia is likely to a No. 2 or 3 regional seed, though if the Cavaliers win Sunday's ACC tournament final over Duke here in Greensboro, they have an outside chance of swiping the final No. 1 — the other three appear set with Florida, Wichita State and Arizona. Other candidates for the fourth No. 1 are Duke, Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas.
Regardless of seed, Virginia figures to open NCAA play in Raleigh, N.C., where games are scheduled Friday and Sunday. The Cavaliers played one of their best games of this season at PNC Arena in January, routing North Carolina State 76-45.
VCU looks like a No. 4 or 5 and is among six teams from the Newport News-based Atlantic 10 Conference that should receive strong consideration for the field. The others: Saint Louis, George Washington, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph's and Dayton.
At least five ACC teams — Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Pittsburgh — will make the bracket. The ACC's Florida State and N.C. State are proverbial "bubble" teams, as are the Big Ten's Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota, the Pacific 12's California and West Coast Conference's Brigham Young.
Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman chairs the selection committee in the final season of his five-year term. During a teleconference with reporters Wednesday, he called parsing teams' credentials this season more difficult than ever.
"There is an awful lot of parity and balance in the game," he said, "which will make it more challenging for the committee, but should produce a really exciting tournament as well."
Injuries further complicate the process. For example, BYU's most versatile player, Kyle Collinsworth, suffered a season-ending knee injury Wednesday in the Cougars' West Coast tournament loss to Gonzaga.
Ranked 34th in the Rating Percentage Index and with the nation's No. 3 non-conference schedule, BYU has a compelling resume. But how to evaluate without Collinsworth?
"I would say the injuries generally affect the seeding more than the selection process," Wellman said. "We have to be very careful about the amount of emphasis that we put upon an injury."
Wellman and his colleagues will spend most of Sunday seeding and bracketing, their deadline affected by championship games in the ACC, Big Ten, Atlantic 10 and Southeastern Conference.
"There have been a number of years where there have been four or five brackets active very late in the game," Wellman said, "whether it be the SEC championship or other reasons. But the committee will be well prepared for any possibility late Sunday afternoon."
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