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Andy Katz | NCAA.com Correspondent | March 22, 2019

Why Michigan State and Minnesota are playing Saturday despite being conference opponents

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The Minnesota-Michigan State matchup in the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament in Des Moines on Saturday was unavoidable due to the bracketing principles adopted nearly six years ago.

The NCAA tournament men’s basketball selection committee changed the rules in 2013 to permit teams from the same conference to meet as early as the round of 32 if they played only once during the season, including conference tournaments. Teams may not play until the Sweet 16 if they played twice and can’t play until the Elite 8 if they faced one another three times.

The committee’s priority is keeping teams on their seed line. Before the new principles were adopted prior to the 2014 tournament, as many as 10 teams would be forced to slide up or down a seed line in a given year. Since then, the committee has only been forced to do it on one bracket: in 2018 when a combination of two No. 1 seeds and four Nos. 8 and 9 seeds from the Big East resulted in two teams (Butler and Providence) dropping to the 10 line, with Florida St. and NC State moving up from the 10 line to 9.

Since the new principles were put in place, the only other time two teams from the same league met prior to the Elite Eight was in 2018 when Duke beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16. And that only happened when the First Four No. 11-seed Syracuse advanced by taking out a No. 3 seed Michigan State in Detroit in the second round.

But this bracket made it impossible to avoid two teams meeting in the second round.

Here’s why:

Minnesota was a No. 10 seed and couldn’t go West where No. 2 seed Michigan was since they played three times this season.

Iowa was a No. 10 seed. The Hawkeyes couldn’t go West because they already played Michigan twice and couldn’t go East since they played Michigan State twice.

Florida was a No. 10 seed that couldn’t go Midwest because it played No. 2 seed Kentucky twice, couldn’t go East because it played No. 3 seed LSU three times and couldn’t go South because it played No. 2 seed Tennessee three times.

Seton Hall was a No. 10 that couldn’t go East because it played No. 7 seed Louisville earlier this season and the committee avoids first-round rematches from the regular season. The Pirates couldn’t go South because it had played No. 6 seed Villanova three times. They could have met in a Sweet 16.

So, Florida could only go West. Seton Hall could only go Midwest. That left East and South remaining and since Iowa couldn’t go East because of Michigan State, Minnesota had to go East.

And that’s also why Minnesota was matched up against Louisville in the first round.

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