Bigger conferences had been a bracketing headache for the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Thursday, tweaks in the selection principles should relieve the pain.
The NCAA announced that men’s basketball teams that play each other only once during the regular season can meet as early as the tournament’s round of 32.
The new rule won’t apply to any of the Big 12’s teams, who play each other twice in the regular season. But it will apply to any Southeastern Conference opponent Missouri plays only once this season.
Previously, teams from the same conference couldn’t square off until the regional semifinal, or Sweet 16.
Teams from the same league that meet twice during the regular season can’t meet until the Sweet 16, and if teams meet a third time they cannot face each other in the NCAA Tournament until the regional final.
Conference tournament games count as regular-season meetings.
The rule will allow the committee to keep teams closer to their actual seeds, instead of having to slide a team to a different seed line because of bracketing principles that attempted to avoid regular-season conference rematches early in the tournament.
In last season’s tournament, the committee acknowledged that Oregon deserved a seed better than a No. 12, but they were boxed in because of the seeding rules.
“The debate was considerable as to what we should do and what was best not only for Oregon but for the tournament,” said current committee chair Ron Wellman, Wake Forest’s athletic director.
Oregon finished tied for second in the Pac-12, won the league tournament, won 21 of its 25 games entering the NCAA, but got a No. 12 and opened in San Jose, Calif. The Ducks easily defeated fifth-seeded Oklahoma State 68-55 in the round of 64.
“When you move a team off its seed line you’re not only affecting that team, but you are affecting the team that it plays and teams it might eventually play,” Wellman said.