July 30, 2001
The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee has adopted new bracketing procedures that will enable more teams to stay closer to home in the first and second rounds of the Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
Beginning with the 2002 championship, after the committee assigns the top four teams in each region, it will assign those teams to first/second-round sites -- with an emphasis on placing them in the most geographically compatible sites, regardless of where the teams will play in the regional the following week. For example, a team located in an eastern state that is seeded second in the West region may play its first- and second-round games at a site in the eastern part of the country, then play in the West Regional.
The committee will place teams in the eight first/second-round sites in groups ("pods") of four (seeds 1, 16, 8, 9, seeds 4, 13, 5, 12, seeds 2, 15, 7, 10, and seeds 3, 14, 6, 11). There will be two pods at each first/second-round site, the two pods at a site may feed into different regional sites.
Before this change, all 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.
"The committee wanted to maintain the event as a 'national' tournament, with four evenly balanced regions, while at the same time keeping as many teams as close to their natural geographic areas as possible," said Mike Tranghese, chair of the committee and commissioner of the Big East Conference. "For student-athletes, it means less travel, fewer missed classes and a more exciting atmosphere in the arenas. For parents, friends and alumni, it means easier access to their favorite teams' games. For the coaches, the committee has maintained the fairness and equity of competition.
"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 also said the plan will reduce expenses and increase attendance. 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 noted that the new procedure will not eliminate teams' having to play out of their 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. "But this year, for example, if we could have assigned Maryland, Georgetown, George Mason and Hampton to first/second round sites in the eastern part of the country, instead of to Boise, we would have significantly reduced the amount of travel we required of those student-athletes, coaches and fans."
The committee also adopted a change it believes will further help it assign teams to first/second round sites closer to their homes. Beginning in 2002, the committee will have the flexibility to place the fourth team selected from a conference into the same region it placed the highest-seeded team from that conference. (Previously, once the highest-seeded team from a conference was assigned to a region, no other team from that conference could be assigned to that region until the sixth team was selected from that conference.) "This adjustment will give the committee yet another opportunity to reduce travel," Tranghese said, "while at the same time preserving the principle that teams from the same conference will not play each other until the regional final."
The committee reaffirmed its current policy to place in different regions each of the first three teams selected from a conference.
Tranghese noted one potential source of concern regarding the new bracketing procedure. "Because the dates of play at all sites must be determined years in advance, we know that in the regional semifinals, a team could be playing with one more day of rest than its opponent," he said. "But that possibility existed for many years until the committee changed it just a few years ago. The committee believes that the benefits to the student-athletes and fans far outweigh the issue of one extra day of rest. And we think the reduced amount of travel will also help to alleviate that concern."
Strength of schedule
In another adjustment to the bracketing procedure, the committee determined that it will not place teams seeded one through five at a potential 'home-crowd disadvantage' in the first round. Previously the committee had afforded that protection only to teams seeded one through four. "We think that since they play each other in the second round, teams seeded four and five should receive similar treatment in the bracketing process," Tranghese said.
The committee, as part of its review of the selection, seeding and bracketing process, reaffirmed that it will continue to emphasize strength of schedule as one of several factors in that process. "The committee will continue to examine closely a team's schedule, particularly its nonconference schedule, when discussing the selection of at-large teams and the seeding of all teams," Tranghese said. "Also, since many conferences play unbalanced in-conference schedules, the committee will continue to look carefully at what opponents a team has played within its own conference. That certainly can affect a team's strength of schedule."
Tranghese said the committee stressed the importance of regularly evaluating the tools it uses to make decisions in the process. For example, he said, the committee has appointed a subcommittee to review the Rating Percentage Index (RPI). The review will include a discussion about increasing the credit teams receive for playing - and winning - games away from home.
In other actions, the committee: