Sunday, March 16, 2008
Time to tie up some loose ends
By Charlie Creme Special to ESPN.com
Editor's note: Click here for Charlie Creme's March 16 bracket projection.
The games are done and Bracketology has been finalized. So as you dissect the latest version, searching for your teams and identifying your resident bracket predictor only by words that total four letters, how about some explanations on why certain parts might be what they are.
Keep in mind that seeds can be moved one seed line to accommodate the procedures for bracketing
That provision was used quite a bit in the final version of the bracket and, I imagine, the selection committee will also move some teams. When eight teams from two leagues (Big 12, Big East) enter the field, and so many of them are compressed into one section of the S-curve, it has to happen.
Coach G's Longhorns were an 8-seed on the S-Curve. But Texas got moved to a No. 7 to avoid meeting a fellow Big 12 team too early.
So if your team was a No. 9 seed and you believe it was worthy of a No. 7, understand that it might not be the discrepancy you think. Between 25 (the straight version beginning of the No. 7 seeds) and 36 (the end of the No. 9 seeds) on the S-curve, six teams were from either the Big East or the Big 12. Keeping in mind that only two teams from a conference can be in each region, and that teams from the same league can't meet until the regional final, that essentially means that it's impossible to keep everyone on the true seed line. A team that earns a No. 8 could end up on the No. 7 or No. 9 line.
Here's an example:
Texas came in at 32 on the S-curve. That makes the Longhorns a No. 8 seed by the book. However, if the Longhorns are the No. 8 in Greensboro, then they have the potential to play fifth-seeded Oklahoma before the regional final. They can't go there. Same happens in Oklahoma City with a conflict with No. 4 Oklahoma State. Even a No. 8 in New Orleans means they could collide with Kansas State too early. Since Nebraska is the No. 8 in Spokane, that switch would be meaningless. The issue exists that three of the No. 4 or 5 seeds are from the Big 12, which creates the conflict.
So Texas had to be shifted a seed line. That's why the Longhorns became a No. 7 in New Orleans. If they are moved, then someone else has to move down to the No. 8 line. That team, in this scenario, was UTEP.
To illustrate how much this can happen, UTEP, Pittsburgh, Georgia and Marist were 25-28 on the S-curve, normally making them No. 7 seeds. However, three of the four had to be moved to make the bracket work. So the Miners, Lady Bulldogs and Red Foxes were turned into No. 8 seeds. It's not a slight, it's just the rules.
Host schools create some issues that can't be avoided
In particular, Iowa State, the host school in Des Moines, Iowa, creates some bracketing complexities. No matter how it can be sliced, Iowa State has to be somewhere between a No. 7 and a No. 10 seed. It would be hard to make a case for anything better. Ultimately, that means that because the Cyclones have to play in Des Moines, that in the second round, a No. 1 or No. 2 seed will be playing a de facto road game.
On the latest S-curve, Iowa State was 31, but was one of those switches discussed above. That made the Cyclones a No. 7 seed. So which No. 2 seed gets the road assignment?
Rutgers, in the Oklahoma City Regional.
Without even taking into consideration that there might be other procedural conflicts, to preclude another move, here's the logic:
Iowa State can't be in the same subregional as No. 2 Texas A&M because of conference affiliation. Maryland and LSU are already host schools, so the Cyclones can't be placed with either of them.
Even if Iowa State had stayed on the No. 8 seed line, issues existed. Stanford is already a subregional host, so the Cyclones couldn't go to the Spokane Regional. Tennessee was forced to play Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh in last year's tournament, and the committee has stated it tries to avoid that happening twice in any three-year period. North Carolina had to do the same in Nashville against Vanderbilt in 2006. So that leaves Rutgers.
And yes, before you run to the computer to send an e-mail for the reminder that Rutgers played Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., last season, remember that that occurred as a No. 4 seed. That isn't supposed to matter in the policy -- but given the circumstances laid out above, something had to give. If it plays out this way, that is the fairest solution.
Texas and DePaul meeting in a regular season rematch?
Ideally, this is avoided, but because of the reasons related to the abundance of Big 12 and Big East teams in the field and with similar S-curve positions, the rematch scenario did happen. Since rematches from the regular season or from the previous season's tournament are not prohibited, it's procedurally allowed. The committee wants to stay away from them as much as possible, but other principles take precedence. Not to mention that it has happened. Rutgers and Michigan State met in the second round last season after playing in the regular season, and Virginia and Old Dominion had a first-round rematch in 2005. In each case, the favorite (Rutgers and Virginia) went 2-0, so the second game didn't create any undo advantage/disadvantage.
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.