July 12, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The NCAA is changing bracketing rules for the men's basketball tournament to allow teams to play closer to home during the first two rounds.
Beginning next March, the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee will assign the top four seeds in each region to subregional sites with an emphasis on reducing travel, regardless of where the teams would play in regionals the following week.
The change, announced Thursday, is designed to eliminate situations like the one this year that had Maryland, Georgetown, George Mason and Hampton assigned to first-round games in Boise.
The committee will place teams in two groups at each subregional site, but the groups may feed into different regional sites.
"For student-athletes, it means less travel, fewer missed classes and a more exciting atmosphere in the arenas," said Mike Tranghese, chairman of the basketball committee and commissioner of the Big East Conference. "For parents, friends and alumni, it means easier access to their favorite teams' games."
Until now all the teams placed in a particular region played their first- and second-round games at one of two sites in that region, then advanced to the regional in that same region.
"We also believe this change will minimize the need for teams to be away from their campuses for long periods of time," Tranghese said. "Some teams that have been sent out of their region have gone directly from their first/second round site to the regional site, we are optimistic that the need for that to occur will greatly diminish."
Tranghese said the change also should cut teams' expenses and boost attendance in the opening rounds.
"Of nine non-dome sites in this year's tournament, only three had attendance less than 89 percent of capacity. This adjustment would have significantly enhanced attendance at those sites, which would have created a better atmosphere in those arenas," he said.
Tranghese said the new change will not eliminate teams' having to play outside their home regions.
"Because we want to balance the strength of the four regions, and because of the geography of where our schools are located, the committee will continue to have to move some teams out of their region," he said.
The committee also will now have the flexibility to place the fourth team selected from a conference in the same region as the highest-seeded team from that conference. Previously, once the highest-seeded team from a conference was assigned a region, no other team from that conference could be assigned there until the sixth team was selected from that conference.
The committee also will no longer place a team seeded fifth at a potential "home-crowd disadvantage" in the first round. Previously, the committee had afforded that protection only to teams seeded one through four.