INDIANAPOLIS – For the second straight year, the Division I men’s basketball committee gave a sneak peek at its top 16 teams as of mid-February, and despite a one-point overtime loss at home to in-state rival Virginia Tech Saturday, Virginia was tabbed as the overall No. 1 seed. The unveiling took place earlier this afternoon on CBS, with committee chair Bruce Rasmussen, the director of athletics at Creighton University, saying that if the tournament started today the Cavaliers would edge Villanova for the top spot. Xavier and Purdue claimed the other two No. 1 seeds.
“When the committee started our meeting on Tuesday, I think there was a general agreement on who the top three teams were, but by late Saturday night that group had grown to four,” said Rasmussen. “We initially felt Villanova was the overall top seed, but we flipped that Thursday morning after the Wildcats lost to St. John’s at home and Virginia won at Florida State. Despite UVA’s loss Saturday, we felt that based on their 13 wins in the first two quadrants, they deserved to remain on top. Villanova bounced back with a good win Saturday, so we kept them second. Purdue had two tough losses to quality teams, while Xavier picked up two good road wins to solidify the fourth No. 1 seed and ultimately leap Purdue on the seed list.”
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Auburn, Kansas, Duke and Cincinnati were voted as the No. 2 seeds, while Clemson, Texas Tech, Michigan State and North Carolina were placed 9-12 on the overall seed list. The quartet of No. 4 seeds include Tennessee, Ohio St., Arizona and Oklahoma.
Using existing bracketing principles, the committee assigned Virginia to the South regional, which will take place in Atlanta. Villanova was sent to the East regional in Boston, while Xavier was assigned to the Midwest regional in Omaha and Purdue was sent to the West regional in Los Angeles.
Using the bracketing principles, the teams on the No. 2 line were assigned to the following regions:
- Because the top No. 2 seed can’t go to the same region as the overall No. 1 seed, Auburn could not go to its closest site. Therefore, the Tigers were assigned to their next closest site in Omaha.
- Kansas was assigned, initially, to the closest available site, which is Atlanta. That, however, changed later in the bracketing process.
- Duke went to its closest site in Boston, while Cincinnati was originally sent to Los Angeles.
The bracketing for the four No. 3 seeds went as follows:
- Clemson could not go to Atlanta or Boston because fellow ACC members had already been assigned to those regions. That resulted in the Tigers going to Omaha. A fourth ACC team on the No. 3 line, North Carolina, had to be sent to Los Angeles because the committee places the top four teams from a conference in separate regions, if they are on the top four lines.
- Texas Tech was sent to its closest available site (Boston) while Michigan State went to Atlanta.
By comparison, the bracketing for the quartet of No. 4 seeds was much easier. Each team went to its closest geographical site, and there were no conflicts with the placement of those teams. Tennessee went to Atlanta, Ohio State was assigned to Boston, Arizona stayed out west in Los Angeles and Oklahoma went to Omaha.
One of the committee’s charges is to have a balanced bracket. To achieve this, the committee adds up the true seed list number of each of the four teams in each region. The committee considers a balanced bracket to have no more than a five-point separation between the highest and lowest total among the four regions. In this bracket, the West region, with (4) Purdue, (8) Cincinnati, (12) North Carolina and (15) Arizona totaled 39. Boston and Omaha each added up to 33, but Atlanta, with (1) Virginia), (6) Kansas, (11) Michigan St. and (13) Tennessee, only added up to 31. After reviewing options, the committee elected to switch Kansas and Cincinnati, sending the Jayhawks to Los Angeles and the Bearcats to Atlanta. That resulted in the West region totaling 37, while the other three regions equaled 33. It left the regions as follows:
South (Atlanta): (1) Virginia, (2) Cincinnati, (3) Michigan St., (4) Tennessee
East (Boston): (1) Villanova, (2) Duke, (3) Texas Tech, (4) Ohio State
Midwest (Omaha): (1) Xavier, (2) Auburn, (3) Clemson, (4) Oklahoma
West (Los Angeles): (1) Purdue, (2) Kansas, (3) North Carolina, (4) Arizona
Rasmussen said it was a good exercise to go through, particularly with three first-year committee members, but cautioned that plenty could change with roughly 1,300 games left before Selection Sunday.
“There’s a perception out there that there aren’t any great teams and that may or may not be true,” said Rasmussen. “What I can say, without any doubt, is there are several very good teams, which could lead to a wide-open tournament. When the bracket came out last year, 15 of the teams were among the 16 we revealed in February. It wouldn’t be surprising to see different results this time. There are several teams on the verge of cracking the top 16, and they have plenty of chances to enhance their resume over the next few weeks.”
Rasmussen is joined on the committee by vice chair Bernard Muir, the director of athletics at Stanford University; Mitch Barnhart, the director of athletics at the University of Kentucky; Tom Burnett, the commissioner of the Southland Conference; Janet Cone, the director of athletics at the University of North Carolina Asheville; Tom Holmoe, the director of athletics at Brigham Young University; Jim Phillips, the director of athletics at Northwestern University; Jim Schaus, the director of athletics at Ohio University; Craig Thompson, the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference; and Kevin White, the director of athletics at Duke University.
The actual bracket will be unveiled on TBS for the first time ever, at 6 p.m. ET Sunday, March 11. March Madness tips off March 13-14 with the First Four in Dayton on truTV. First- and second-round games will take place Thursday and Saturday, March 15 and 17 in Boise, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Wichita, and Friday and Sunday, March 16 and 18 in Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville and San Diego. First- and second-round games will air on TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV.
The South and West regionals will be played March 22 and 24, while the East and Midwest regionals will take place March 23 and 25. Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games will air on TBS and CBS, while the 80th Final Four will be played in San Antonio March 31 and April 2 and will air on TBS.