NCAA Bracket Seeding: Helping Clear the Confusion (Sort of)

March 13th, 2010

Selection Sunday is a dramatic day precisely because the selection & seeding process is often confusing and controversial. At its core, the processs seems relatively simple: a) select the 34 best at-large teams, b) seed all 65 teams (adding the 31 automatic bids), and then c) place those teams into the bracket. While each step of the process is at the whim of human subjectivity, there are some specific principles the Selection Committee uses to put together the NCAA Bracket.

The complete Principles and Procedures from the NCAA.

Here are some of the more important & interesting principles:

- Committee members can't vote for teams that the individual represents as an AD or Commissioner. Beyond that, committeee members can't even be present during discussions about their represented leagues. (This is to help alleviate concerns about bias.)

- The committee starts seeding teams even before the final field is set (and obviously before the final games are played.)

- Just because the committee considers a team to be a certain seed, does not mean they'll end up in that spot on the bracket due to various bracketing principles. (Ie, geography, conference affiliation, etc.) Thus if you're angry your favorite team was given a 7 seed instead of a 6, its possible the committee agreed that they were 6-quality.

- The committee attempts to place teams into geographically compatible first round sites.. which is different from saying they'll be placed into compatible regions.

- There shall be no more than two teams from a given conference in the same region, unless there are 9+ teams from that conference. Ie, a league cannot have 3 in one region, 2 in two others, and 1 in the last region.

- Each of the 1st three teams selected from a conference cannot be in the same region, so as to prevent conference teams from knocking each other out early on.

- Although there is a long-standing rule to prevent conference teams from meeting until the Regional Finals, this rule can be waived off if the committee can't reconcile it with more important rules.

- If a team is a tournament host at a certain facility, it can't play there, nor can it play at  a gym a team has played 3+ times. This does not prevent a team from playing in its home city, so long as it's a different venue.

- The committee is, if possible, to avoid matching teams up who played previously in the year or in the previous year's tournament.

- The RPI is one of many statistical tools the committee uses, and not a be-all end-all.

Confused? Check out the complete Principles and Procedures from the NCAA.