INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee will have the flexibility to slide every team up or down the seed list, including the last four at-large teams selected to the field, thanks to an adjustment in the principles and procedures for selecting, seeding and bracketing March Madness teams.
Previously, the guidelines called for the last four teams voted into the tournament field during the selection process to participate in the First Four; now the last four at-large teams on the overall seed list will play in those opening round games.
During the selection process, the committee typically votes for eight schools from a pool of teams under consideration for the tournament. After that vote, the committee ranks those eight teams and the top four vote-getters move to the at-large board, meaning they are in the tournament. During the seeding process, committee members vote for eight schools from a pool of teams already in the field. When those eight teams are determined, committee members rank them and the top four are placed on the overall seed list, which is the committee’s ranking of all 68 teams.
Throughout selection weekend, the committee will compare teams on the seed list with one another, a process known as “scrubbing,” to make sure the group is comfortable with the order in which the teams are ranked. Teams are carefully compared with one another, 1 versus 2, 2 versus 3 and down to 67 versus 68. However, due to the previous principles calling for the last four at-large teams selected to the field participating in the First Four, a full scrubbing process did not take place with those four teams. The new principles change that process.
“It’s a small, yet significant, alteration to the language outlining our seeding process,” said Joseph R. Castiglione, the vice president and director of athletics at the University of Oklahoma and the chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2015-16 season. “Making this change gives the committee the opportunity to properly seed every team, whereas previous procedures did not permit appropriate scrubbing of the last four at-large teams.
“Selecting teams usually involves looking at teams in groups of eight. Scrubbing is comparing two teams against one another and sometimes there’s greater clarity during that process due to head-to-head competition, record versus common opponents or wins against tournament teams. This tweak provides us with the opportunity to scrub teams even more thoroughly.”
The inaugural First Four took place in 2011, when the field expanded to 68 teams and the men’s basketball committee needed to adjust the championship’s format. Since then, eight teams -- the last four at-large teams selected to the field and the last four teams on the overall seed list -- have played in the four opening round games on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Selection Sunday. A First Four winner has advanced at least one additional round every year since the First Four’s inception, including VCU making a run to the Final Four in 2011 and La Salle and Tennessee advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Another change the committee made will provide flexibility for seeding the four teams on the No. 2 line. While teams from the same conference will remain in separate regions, the committee may consider moving the team seeded fifth on the overall seed list out of its natural geographic area to avoid the best of the No. 2 seeds being placed in the same region as the top overall team.
“This change doesn’t mean we are going to a true S-Curve but if we can achieve it, or come closer to having more competitive balance on the top two lines without compromising our existing principles and without putting a team at a great disadvantage, we will consider it,” said Castiglione.
The committee also adjusted language to the principles and procedures to prevent a committee member from being present during discussion or participating in a vote involving a team in which an immediate family member is employed by the school’s athletic department, or is a student-athlete on the men’s basketball team.