NCAA tweaks March Madness seeding rules for increased flexibility
INDIANAPOLIS — The committee that puts together the field of 68 for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will have more flexibility to set the First Four and give No. 2 seeds more favorable matchups.
The NCAA announced Monday that the Division I selection committee will now be allowed to slide every team up or down the seed list, including the last four at-large teams selected. Until now, the last four teams voted into the tournament field were locked into the First Four, the eight-team playoff that serves as the tournament’s first round.
Going forward, the last four at-large teams on the overall seed list — after the seeds have been tweaked by a process known as scrubbing — will play in the First Four.
"It’s a small, yet significant, alteration to the language outlining our seeding process," said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, the chairman of the Division I men’s basketball committee. "Making this change gives the committee the opportunity to properly seed every team, whereas previous procedures did not permit appropriate scrubbing of the last four at-large teams."
Selecting teams usually involves looking at teams in groups of eight, Castiglione said. Scrubbing is comparing two teams against one another, from their records against each other and common opponents to their wins against tournament teams.
"This tweak provides us with the opportunity to scrub teams even more thoroughly," he said.
Last season, the seeding process placed Dayton into the First Four, playing at home. UCLA, another team that was among the last to get into the field, was placed in the main bracket. The old procedures did not allow the committee to switch Dayton and UCLA.
The First Four started in 2011 when the field expanded to 68 teams. The last four at-large teams selected to the field are paired off in two games and the last four teams on the overall seed list are matched in two other games played on Tuesday and Wednesday at Dayton’s home arena. A First Four participant has reached the round of 32 each season since, including Dayton last season.
The other change allows the committee to move the team seeded fifth overall out of its natural geographic area to avoid the best No. 2 seed being placed in the same region as the top overall team. The committee nearly was faced with the prospect of having Wisconsin as the No. 2 seed in Kentucky’s bracket last season because of rules regarding geographical advantage.
The Badgers ended up as a No. 1 seed and played — and beat — Kentucky in the Final Four before losing to Duke in the championship game. But if Wisconsin had ended up as a 2 seed, and clearly the best team on that line, the rules would have locked the Badgers into the Midwest Region with No. 1 overall seed Kentucky.
"This change doesn’t mean we are going to a true S-curve but if we can achieve it, or come closer to having more competitive balance on the top two lines without compromising our existing principles and without putting a team at a great disadvantage, we will consider it," Castiglione said.
The committee also adjusted procedures to prevent a committee member from being present during discussion or participating in a vote involving a team in which an immediate family member is employed by the school’s athletic department, or is an athlete on the basketball team.