You may not have realized that Bubba Cunningham was on the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, but for the past three tournaments Cunningham has been in the room deciding who would make the Big Dance and who would stay home.
The Committee cycles through members every year, and a typical term on the committee is five years. Before the committee meets, they go ahead and choose a vice-chair and a chair, and in some cases go ahead and establish the leadership positions for the next season.
So, on Thursday it was announced that Bubba Cunningham will spend the 2023-24 season as the vice chair to SWAC commissioner Charles McClelland’s chair. McClelland is the one you’ll see after the brackets are announced to talk about who got in, who got out, what the methodology was, and so forth as we go into the 2024 Tournament. Cunningham will be paying close attention to the job, as then he will assume that role for the 2025 Tournament.
As the most valuable property in the NCAA, the Committee Chair is it’s most front-facing position, and the person that’ll often be quoted when the story about bracket metrics are discussed as the season goes on. He’ll also be on the front lines of seeing exactly how the committee decides to weigh games against other teams, when they are played, and just how much the derided NET-rankings are used.
The insight is going to be ridiculously invaluable for Hubert Davis and the UNC program. It’s one thing to be on the committee and see some of the moves in action, but it’s another thing to actually be in a leadership position and bring in the data to help get the wheels in motion. While he will not be allowed to have a direct impact on UNC’s Tournament position — any one who has a direct relationship with a school has to be excused when their school is discussed — he will undoubtedly have first hand knowledge of where things stand for Carolina as the season progresses, and will be able to use that knowledge to help Carolina’s scheduling.
Cunningham’s leadership will also likely draw some conversations with Jim Phillips, who has been upset with how the ACC has been seeded the last couple of seasons in the Tournament. If that happens a third year in a row, he’ll be able to ask Cunningham what happened and how the conference can do better.
The easy answer is win, of course, but there still may be more insight than you wouldn’t expect.
It’s also going to be fun for rival schools to start conspiracy theories over how they were affected because Bubba was in charge. No doubt it’ll solely be his fault if they don’t get in.
Once Cunningham is finished with the leadership position in 2025 and hands the trophy to the winning team, his turn in the committee will be done. That said, for the next two years, Tar Heel fans should expect some pretty good insight into the process thanks to Cunningham being in the leadership roles.