The NCAA basketball committee has an annual summer meeting to discuss what it can do better, and as a result of its recent one, is making a tweak that should make for truer matchups by seed.
You’ve no doubt heard the concept many times on Selection Sunday — such-and-such team was dropped or raised a seed line to satisfy a bracketing principle, usually because another team from a multi-bid conference necessitated it. Generally, teams from one conference have been prevented from potentially meeting until a regional final.
In its announcement, the NCAA’s basketball-committee chair, Ron Wellman, said recent brackets have had as many as 13 instances of teams moving up or down a seed line, and he cited two instances in the past six years of teams being moved two seed lines. It strikes me that moving two seed lines is messing pretty seriously with the integrity of the process.
Marquette might agree. In 2007, Wellman said on a teleconference, it was moved from a No. 6 to a No. 8 because of bracketing-principle problems. Not only did that put the Golden Eagles in a dreaded 8-9 game, it matched them with one of the tournament’s traditional powers in Michigan State, and the Spartans won by 12 points. Got to believe Marquette would have taken its chances as a No. 6 seed, playing a No. 11 rather than MSU.
The new bracketing principle mandates that only if teams from one league met three or more times during the regular season must they be protected from meeting until a regional final. If they played twice, they’re protected until the regional semifinal. But if they played only once, they can meet in what’s now known as the third round (the round of 32). So, for instance, if Washington were to make the tournament as a No. 10 seed and beat a No. 7 to advance in its first game, it could be matched against Arizona (a No. 2 seed) if they only met once during the regular season (which includes the conference tournament).
Wellman, entering his fifth year on the committee, said moving teams off their true seed caused “great discomfort” on that panel, after it does exhaustive work determining true seeds, only to discover that the bracketing process forced teams up or down a line.
Wellman says the committee met with the National Assn. of Basketball coaches and got clear support there.
“In the future, we will not have to move seeds from one seed line to another nearly as often as we have in the past,” Wellman said. “Ninety percent of the seed-line moves in the last three years would have been eliminated if the new principles had been in effect over the last three years.
“When you move a team off its seed line, you’re not only affecting that team but the team it plays and the teams it eventually may play.”