NCAA introduces one-time change to bracketing model for 2021 March Madness
As if getting into the NCAA basketball tournament wasn’t hard enough, now math is involved.
Seeding for the tournament will differ from years past due to the fact that all the games will be held within the state of Indiana, all part of the fallout of COVID-19. As such, seeding will utilize the S-curve to help smooth out the process for this year – and hopefully only this year.
It isn’t a drastic departure to seeding, far from it. But it is subtly different.
The top four seeds will still go into different regions, providing four No. 1 seeds, just like in a normal year. After that, however, there is a bit of a breakdown.
This, from the NCAA:
The overall No. 5 seed will be placed in the same region as the overall No. 4. The overall No. 6 will be placed with the overall No. 3. The overall No. 7 seed will be paired with the overall No. 2, and the overall No. 8 will be in the same region as the top-seeded team. The next step would be to place the third-seeded teams, with the overall No. 9 seed joining the Nos. 1 and 8 seeds in one region, the No. 10 seed being placed with the Nos. 2 and 7 seeds, the No. 11 seed going to the same region as the Nos. 3 and 6 seeds, and the No. 12 seed joining the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds. The first quadrant of tournament teams is completed by placing the fourth-seeded teams in each region as follows: the overall No. 13 with Nos. 4, 5 and 12; No. 14 with Nos. 3, 6 and 11; No. 15 with Nos. 2, 7 and 10; and No. 16 with Nos. 1, 8 and 9. The process repeats itself for teams seeded 5-16, using the overall seed list to place teams in their respective regions.
The First Four, commonly referred to as the play-in games, will remain the same. There are also twists involving teams from the same conference not meeting each other, all contingent upon the numbers of games played (including the conference tournament).
According to Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball, the S-curve works the best in assuring a balanced tournament experience.
“As the committee discussed this topic, it became clear that the S-curve bracketing option makes the most sense, given the unique circumstances with which this tournament will be played,” Gavitt said. “In a normal year, bracketing is done with consideration given to keeping as many teams as close to their campus as possible, reducing team travel and providing as many fans as possible an opportunity to watch their favorite teams participate in The Big Dance. But this year only, with the entire tournament being played in Indiana, the committee believes this different approach is optimal.”