NCAA basketball committee must trust schools for injury information

The 10-person NCAA selection committee meeting at the Conrad Hotel in Indianapolis this week will use a myriad of analytic indexes — RPI, Sagarin, Kenpom — to help it seed the 68-school tournament field that will be announced Sunday.

“The committee is very aware of everything,” Ron Wellman, chair of this year’s panel, said on a conference call Wednesday.

When it comes to injuries, however, the committee must depend on trust.

“We have to rely upon what the schools tell us,” Wellman, the athletic director at Wake Forest, said. “We don’t have a CIA operation here where we can go in the backdoor and find out information that they are not giving us. So we do rely upon the school’s truthfulness with us and we believe they do tell us the truth.”

Trying to seed a school with an injury issue, in fact, might be the most difficult task in the selection process.

At issue this week is the back injury to Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, a key to the Jayhawks’ tournament fortunes.

Kansas Coach Bill Self has already declared Embiid out for this week’s Big 12 tournament but said his 7-foot star could be back if Kansas reaches the second weekend of play.

“Where that puts the Jayhawks next week, we haven’t even started those discussions yet,” Wellman said. “I can assure that the committee members are aware of that injury.”

Kansas (23-8) is still favored to win the Big 12 Tournament this week, but with the uncertainty surrounding Embiid, the Jayhawks have been slotted as a No. 2 (for now) by most bracket pundits.

It helps that Kansas has played three times, going 2-1, with Embiid out of the lineup.

“We’ll have the opportunity to see Kansas play a number of times possibly this week in their conference tournament without him,” Wellman said.

The committee has had to factor injuries to major players into NCAA seeding before.

In 2004, Connecticut was dropped to the No. 2 line because of a lingering injury to star Emeka Okafor. He ended up playing and the Huskies won the NCAA title.

Cincinnati fans, though, are still outraged their Bearcats were dropped to a No. 2 after star center Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA Tournament back in 2000.

The Bearcats were No. 1 in the country but obviously were a completely different team without the nation’s top player.

Cincinnati lost to Tulsa in the second round.

“Sometimes it doesn’t pan out the way they predict,” Wellman said of the injury information it receives from schools. “But they believe they do their best to give us the very best diagnosis.”


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