Karen Kemp has a new appreciation for the folks who choose and seed the participating teams in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
The East Tennessee State coach spent much of last weekend in Indianapolis participating in a mock NCAA tournament selection. It was an exercise aimed at educating coaches and administrators in the nuances of the selection process.
“I really enjoyed the whole experience,” said Kemp, one of 16 coaches who participated. “It was educational and informative. It’s a lot more intense and more work than I ever thought that it was. I have definitely gained a lot more appreciation for what that committee does.”
A group of 28 participants, made up of coaches and administrators, began the process Saturday morning by talking about how scheduling affects selections. They then chose the entire field, including at-large teams, based on last season’s results. On Sunday, they seeded the field and put the teams into brackets.
“They walked us through every step the committee goes through in March,” Kemp said.
The discussion about scheduling was especially educational, according to Kemp. In recent years, ETSU has played several non-conference games against schools from the power conferences. She learned those games didn’t carry quite as much weight in the selection committee’s eyes as she thought.
Last year, ETSU played Tennessee, Ohio State and North Carolina.
“They told us, ‘You need to schedule a couple of those, but part of your schedule needs to be top mid-major schools,’” she said.
Next season’s Lady Bucs’ schedule, which has not yet been released, will have Middle Tennessee State coming to the Dome.
“That’s the kind of game they were talking about, MTSU or Bowling Green, something like that,” Kemp said. “But when you play them, you have to beat them.”
Based on RPI (ratings percentage index), the Atlantic Sun Conference ranked 22nd out of 31 leagues last season.
“You can’t control who you play in the conference,” Kemp said. “But those non-conference games, you can control who you play. They look at that, and I found myself looking at that when I was deciding on who to put in.”
Kemp told the committee her team should be left out of consideration because of star freshman Destiny Mitchell’s late-season knee injury that dramatically changed the look of the team.
“Maybe that was not so good,” Kemp said. “But you look at injuries and you look at how teams are doing near the end of the year, the last 10 or 12 games. Destiny Mitchell was a big part of our team. When she got hurt, it did make a difference.”
When Kemp suggested that ETSU be taken off the board, she said there was a reaction from Beth Bass, the executive director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and a graduate of ETSU.
“She kind of gave me a bad look,” Kemp said.
ETSU has played in three NCAA tournaments, being seeded 14th in 2008, 13th in 2009 and 14th in 2010.
“I know that year we made the tournament for the first time in East Tennessee State women’s basketball history, we were praying we wouldn’t get a 16,” Kemp said. “I understand what we need to do better as a mid-major on getting a higher seed.”
The mock selection has been going on since 2007.
“It was really good experience,” Kemp said.
Joe Avento is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.