by Jerry Palm
One of the most common questions I get is what does the committee consider regarding injuries and suspensions. The committee knows about all in-season roster issues each team has, and does give them some consideration. They'll know about Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen's suspension and Gonzaga G Stephen Gray's injury, for example, and that gets taken into account.
What the committee does not do is assume that games lost due to roster issues would have been won if the roster was complete. They will not wipe the Wildcats' loss to UNLV on Tuesday off the books. To the committee, it's still a loss, however, as long as Pullen is available for the NCAA tournament, they will weigh the games he played in a little more heavily than those he missed.
Things like roster issues have a bigger impact on seeding than selection, and the roster going into the tournament is what matters. There have been a couple of well-known cases over time that provide good examples. Cincinnati was the top-rated team in the country in both the RPI and the polls going into the tournament in 2000. Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the conference tournament though, and the Bearcats lost the game in which he got hurt. Since Martin wasn't going to be available for the NCAA tournament, the committee knocked Cinci down to a two-seed. That was a case where the committee had very little information about the team with it's tournament roster, since Cincinnati only played about half a game without Martin. In a sense, they had to guess what Cincinnati might be like.
That same year, Michigan State struggled during an early part of the season when Mateen Cleaves was injured. That stretch included a loss to Wright State. He came back strong though, and at the end of the season, it was pretty clear that the Spartans were one of the top teams in the country, and they were rewarded with a No. 1 seed, despite being 13th in the RPI. That is the lowest RPI for a top seeded team since I started tracking the numbers in 1994.
However, if an injury or suspension to a key player arguably causes a team to finish 16-15 that might have been 20-11 otherwise, you can safely say that team won't be playing in the NCAA tournament, whether it is back to full strength or not. Injuries won't help a team get selected if the resume doesn't stand up.