Thursday, March 20, 2014

A note on geography

So Wichita State got a loaded regional.  Here's why.

The committee likes to put teams into the bracket in such a way that travel is minimized for the teams and their fans.  So let's look down the seed lines and see how they did that.

Villanova, as the top 2 seed, got to be placed in the east.  Michigan was next, and obviously got placed in the midwest.

On the 3 line, Duke was the top 3 seed.  Geographically, their preferred region is the midwest, not east (least travel).

On the 4 line, Louisville was the top 4 seed.  Geographically, their preferred region is the midwest.

On the 8 line, Kentucky was the top 8 seed.  Geographically, their preferred region is the midwest.

So now we see the problem.  Wichita gets the toughest 8 seed, followed by the toughest 4, followed by the toughest 3 or the 2nd toughest 2.  That's imbalanced, period.  Wichita got a tougher draw than others.  Because of geography.  Because the committee tries so hard to keep everyone close to home.

The NCAA needs to stop this.  I get the concept behind their geographical-based methods.  But a fair bracket should be of primary importance.  Geography should be secondary to a fair and balanced bracket.  The NCAA needs to revisit their policy and introduce rules that force them to create more balanced regionals.

This problem also shows up in other ways.  The AAC has 4 teams in the tournament, but 3 would up in the same regional.  Cincy, Memphis, and UConn are all in the east regional.  Naturally, they all went there because they're eastern teams.  I'd rather see the NCAA reintroduce the rule that forces the top teams from each conference into different regionals.  It's not fair to a conference to be loaded up into a single regional.

The NCAA is almost there in terms of a pure, fair bracket.  They just need to de-emphasize geography just a little bit.

One more thing:  if you're the top team among teams in a seed line (say, Kentucky and the 8), you get geographic priority over the other 8s.  Therefore, you could make the argument a team would rather be the top team on a seed line instead of the last team on the above seed line.  You'd rather be the first 7 seed than the last 6 seed.  Because with the first 7 seed, you get geographic priority, and the last 6 gets the last available spot.  That needs to be fixed.

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