Bracketologists, in addition to picking who they feel will be in and out of the tournament and what their seed will be, often come up with their predictions of how the final bracket will actually be built out. To do so, we will follow the NCAA’s Principles and Procedures Manual which for the most part tells us how the matchups should be set. For the third straight season, I have taken the official final seed list and looked at how the bracket was built, and which rules may have been relaxed or outright ignored.
- At the very top, North Carolina was 5th overall yet sent to the West Region instead of the East. On top of that, the #6 team, Duke, was also not sent East, resulting in the Blue Devils going to the Midwest while Purdue went to the East. Clearly, this year’s committee preferred a “true S-Curve” on the top two lines over keeping these teams in the natural regions.
- The top two four seeds were Auburn and Wichita State. Upon choosing their site for first and second round games, the only two cities left were Boise and San Diego. Both teams were sent to San Diego despite the difference in miles being fairly insignificant between the two cites, especially for Auburn. This resulted in San Diego being filled and the final 4 seed, Arizona, being sent to Boise. I just don’t get this logic — with a simple site flip for either Auburn or Wichita, Arizona could have been kept a lot closer to home.
- The Committee ran into a big problem on the 9 line. With Xavier and Villanova as 1 seeds, the 8/9 games in the East and West regions could not have a Big East team in them. Creighton and Seton Hall were on the 8 line and therefore went to the South and Midwest. However, two more Big East teams (Butler and Providence) were slated for the 9 line, making all 4 regions ineligible. NC State and Florida State should have been 10 seeds, but had to both slide up a seed line to deal with this conflict, while Butler and Providence dropped to 10’s. This was the proper and only move for the Committee.
- Butler and Providence’s placement was strange. Butler was higher than Providence on the Seed line, and therefore should have been sent to Detroit to play Arkansas, while Providence should have gone to Charlotte to play Texas A&M. However, the committee flipped these two teams for no known reason. If the Committee was going to ignore a rule, I would have preferred they ignore the rule against regular season matchups and just sent Providence to Pittsburgh to play Rhode Island!
- The “protected seed” rule actually did come into play this year as Lipscomb was the top 15 seed and Nashville was an option. The Bison got properly sent to Charlotte instead of being allowed to play in their home city.
- UMBC was the top 16 seed and should have been sent to Pittsburgh to play Villanova. Penn would have then gone to Charlotte to take on Virginia and the Radford/LIU Brooklyn winner would have gone to Wichita to play Kansas. For some reason, the committee moved UMBC to Charlotte, sending Penn out to Wichita and the play-in game winner to Pittsburgh. This may have been a travel issue, due to the relative short distance from Dayton to Pittsburgh as opposed to Dayton to Wichita. Otherwise, it once again makes little sense.
All in all, there were very few strange bracketing choices this year compared to past seasons. The most significant clearly was the decision to do a True S-Curve on the top two seed lines and ignore keeping the 2 seeds in the natural regions. We will have to see if this continues in future years, but it will be something I likely attempt to do in all bracket predictions next season.