I don’t think anyone has ever called the NCAA tournament bracketing process “simple” or “perfect” – and they probably never will. But to their credit, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is ever working to improve the system, and make things as fair as possible. The committee announced some changes Thursday, with chairman and Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman on hand to answer questions via conference call.

Here are the basics:

In the past, one of the things the selection committee has struggled with is reconciling a team’s true seeding with the bracketing principles that limit how many teams from the same conference can be in a region and when they can first face each other in the tournament.

Over the last several years, to meet those guidelines, the NCAA has ended up moving teams one line or even two lines, in a couple of cases – and obviously this has caused a lot of stress for teams as well as the committee, which spends hours scrubbing the seeds to get their original master list.

To fix this problem, the committee – which received feedback from schools, conferences and the National Association of Basketball Coaches – has decided to make a couple of changes:

  • Teams from the same conference that faced each other only once (this includes conference tournaments) can now face each other as early as the third round. Teams that played twice cannot face each other until the regional semi-finals. Teams that played three times cannot face each other until the regional championship game. This means that more than two teams from a single conference could end up in a particular region, whereas before only two were allowed unless a conference sent nine or more teams to the Big Dance (which has only happened twice ever, both times being the Big East).
  • Re-matches for non-conference games will be avoided in the First Four and in the second round if possible.

What does this mean? For the Gophers, and the Big Ten, it means each school is much more likely to have its true seed protected, and we could end up seeing more Big Ten matchups in the tournament. The Big Ten perennially sends a solid offering of teams to the Big Dance. Overall, there have been 12 instances of a D-I conference sending seven or more teams to the tournament. During that timeframe, an average of ten teams per year have been moved up or down at least one line on the bracket. As we know, the difference between a 9-seed and a 10-seed can be huge, as can the difference between an 11-seed and a 12-seed.

  • Wellman also said that seeds will not be sacrificed for geography in the future, although the committee does deem geography very important.
  • The NCAA staff determined that 90 percent of the seed line changes in the last three years would have been prevented had the new guidelines been in place.

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