Anyone watching Wichita State's recent victory over Ohio State in the Elite Eight of the NCAA men's basketball tournament might have recognized a familiar face.
Doug McDermott did.
“When I saw 'Ras' sitting there behind Gregg Marshall,” the Creighton forward said, “I thought he had turned traitor on us.”
Hardly. Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen sat at the scorer's table for the Los Angeles regional as part of some on-the-job training for joining the prestigious NCAA basketball tournament committee next season.
As luck would have it, Rasmussen shadowed two committee members in Los Angeles, where Wichita State, Creighton's Missouri Valley rival, won a pair of games to advance to its second Final Four.
Rasmussen's seat was close enough to the Shockers' bench that he knew what color Powerade the Wichita State coach was drinking.
“Blue,” he said.
Rasmussen also crossed paths with Marshall and the Shockers at the Final Four. Rasmussen was in Atlanta, along with the 10 sitting members of the committee, to help make sure that the NCAA's prized event goes off without a hitch.
“There is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that you make sure gets taken care of,” he said.
The news came out in February that Rasmussen had been appointed to the committee for a five-year term that begins Sept. 1. Since then, he has learned that the committee doesn't just select teams and seed them for the 68-team Division I tournament.
Shadowing committee members — first in Philadelphia, where Creighton played its second- and third-round games, and then in Los Angeles — has showed him how much behind-the-scenes work goes into the smooth operation of the tournament.
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“You basically run the tournament,” he said. “You rely a lot on your tournament manager at the site, but then you make sure that he's done all the things that are required.
“I've got a booklet a couple hundred pages thick that you have to make sure is followed.”
Rasmussen said he will be on the road for about 60 days a year, starting when the committee meets during the summer. It meets again before the season and for four days a month before Selection Sunday.
“You pick a mock, 68-team bracket and seed them based on what you know at the time,” Rasmussen said.
Each committee member is assigned three conferences in which he serves as the primary evaluator, and four conferences in which he is the secondary evaluator.
“So you're watching seven conferences in addition to your own,” he said. “You watch the teams you're assigned to every way you can. The NCAA will provide you with Dish Network or anything you need to upload games from the conferences you're covering.
“Talking with other committee members, it means you're probably watching two or three games a day from November to March. You get it set up so that you can watch them while you're on the treadmill or while you're eating. You try to work it into your schedule.”
The process is set up, Rasmussen said, so that when the committee meets in March, it can provide the human touch to the mounds of statistical information supplied by the NCAA staff.
“You find that the committee members really know their conferences,” Rasmussen said. “They talk to commissioners, coaches, media members, anyone that allows them to get to know the real strengths and weaknesses of the individual teams.”
Rasmussen came to Creighton in 1980 to coach women's basketball. Although he's been an administrator for the past two decades, he remains an astute observer of the game.
He is looking forward to being involved with the committee the next five years.
“I am concerned about the time commitment,” he said. “Everyone on the committee says it's unbelievably time-consuming, but it's also unbelievably rewarding in spite of the criticism you know you're going to get.
“And for a basketball guy, it's a dream come true.”
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