New Initiative For Seeding Should Create More Stability Within The MadnessPosted by BHayes on August 2nd, 2013
The college basketball news of the day on Thursday came from Ron Wellman, Wake Forest AD and current chair of the Division I men’s basketball championship committee, when he outlined significant criteria changes for how the NCAA Tournament will be seeded in the future. The new method will be put in place immediately for the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and while the change may not be as drastic as say, a 96-team field, it should have a meaningful and productive impact on the dear old event we know and love.
Quickly, here’s the nitty-gritty: Conference foes who have only met one time during the season (conference tournaments included) can now play each other in the round of 32; if conference-mates have already played twice, their earliest possible NCAA match-up will come in the Sweet Sixteen. Finally, if teams have played three times throughout the course of the year, it won’t be until the regional finals that they are allowed to rendez-vous for a fourth time. Additionally, the top four teams from a conference must now only be separated by region if they are among the top 16 overall seeds; in the past, only the top three teams from each league were separated, period. If you want the full breakdown from the committee, you can read its press release here.
So, why is this alteration so important? First off, let’s make the point that the policy changes should achieve their intended purpose. The goal is to keep teams, as often as possible, on the seed line they earned over the course of the regular season. If the new criteria had been used for the last three NCAA Tournaments, 90% of true seed line shifts would have been avoided, so it does appear that the committee has found the right tool for the job. But let’s go back to the beginning now – why does it matter so much if a few teams are seeded a line too high or too low? Maybe the easiest way to answer this question is to consider the case of the 2012-13 Oregon Ducks. If you paid attention to this year’s Tournament AT ALL, you were made well aware of how under-seeded (as a #12) Oregon was. Now, in reality, the Ducks may not have been one of those teams forced down a line because of complications elsewhere in the bracket, but the point here is that their underwhelming seed line did not go unnoticed. The Ducks felt slighted, their first round opponent (Oklahoma State) felt a little jobbed, and general uproar ensued. With yesterday’s announced updates to the seeding process in place for next year and beyond, teams will have a far harder time complaining about their seed line/first round match-up/overall draw, and everyone should find it easier to focus on the stuff that really counts—namely, basketball.
At the end of the day, the job of the selection committee is to select the 36 best at-large teams, throw them in the mix with the 32 automatic qualifiers, and seed them 1-68 on the merits of their regular season performance. You earn your seed line just as much as you earn your way into the field, and college basketball’s new initiative sets up well to protect the integrity of those seeds.