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MSU fans, stop whining: There isn’t an NCAA conspiracy against you.

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or, Beez explains the brackets...kinda

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The NCAA Tournament bracket this year looks super weird:

  • Why did the B1G get 8 teams in the tournament, only to have 6 of those 8 teams crammed into two brackets?
  • How did Michigan State end up with two OTHER B1G teams in the same half of its regional?
  • Why does Kansas get a home game in the Sweet Sixteen?
  • Why does Cincinnati get back-to-back home games in its first two rounds?
  • How come Iowa has to go to Columbus when the lower-ranked Minnesota gets to go to Des Moines?

Well, it takes a little bit to explain, but it makes sense (within the NCAA’s stupid system) once you know what they stupid system is. But first, here’s the 1-68 overall ranking of the teams in the tournament (the top seed on each line is bolded):

NCAA Tournament overall seeding

1. Duke
1. Duke
2. Virginia
3. North Carolina
4. Gonzaga
5. Tennessee
6. Michigan State
7. Kentucky
8. Michigan
9. Houston
10. Texas Tech
11. LSU
12. Purdue
13. Kansas
14. Florida State
15. Kansas State
16. Virginia Tech
17. Marquette
18. Auburn
19. Wisconsin
20. Mississippi State
21. Villanova
22. Maryland
23. Buffalo
24. Iowa State
25. Louisville
26. Nevada
27. Cincinnati
28. Wofford
29. VCU
30. Syracuse
31. Ole Miss
32. Utah State
33. Washington
34. UCF
35. Baylor
36. Oklahoma
37. Iowa
38. Seton Hall
39. Minnesota
40. Florida
41. Ohio State
42. Belmont
43. Temple
44. Saint Mary’s
45. Arizona State
46. St. John’s
47. Murray State
48. Oregon
49. New Mexico State
50. Liberty
51. UC Irvine
52. Vermont
53. Saint Louis
54. Northeastern
55. Yale
56. Old Dominion
57. Georgia State
58. Northern Kentucky
59. Montata
60. Colgate
61. Bradley
62. Abilene Christian
63. Gardner-Webb
64. Iona
65. Prairie View
66. Fairleigh Dickinson
67. North Dakota State
68. N.C. Central
Look man, I have no idea why “1. Duke” shows up on every line on mobile devices, but I can’t figure it out. Just look at it on a tablet or PC

I took a look at this article on The Athletic (paywall), and learned a LOT about why the brackets actually look a little crazy this year.

This is the relevant paragraph (re: MSU complaints about Duke):

“The rationale, however, makes sense under the bracketing principles and procedures with which the committee was charged. There is no S-curve. Geography rules. Teams are supposed to be placed in the closest region to their campus in order of seed list. That applies to every team, not just those on the top lines.”

This is how it supposedly works: They rank all the teams 1-68 and then assign the top team from each seed line to whatever regional site is closest.

So Duke, as the top 1 seed, got DC (closest region to them), MSU as the second best 2 seed got the regional closest to its campus that hadn’t yet been taken by a 2 seed, also DC (because Tennessee, the top 2 seed, is closer to Louisville than any other regional) by just 100ish miles over Kansas City.

So why is MSU, the 6th overall team, stuck with the top overall team? Because of geography.

And they basically assign the teams this way down all the seed lines, again, supposedly. Which is why Kansas gets to be in Kansas City as a 4 (they’re the top 4 seed) even though it screws their 1 seed. And it’s why the best 16 seed, Gardner Webb, is playing in the Regional closest to their home.

Once all the seed lines are sorted into regions, from what I can tell, the process starts over for selecting pods. Duke is overall 1, so the get a Columbia pod. Then allllll the teams in Duke’s pod get dragged along to Columbia. Virginia is next-best 1 seed, so they get their closest pod, which again is Columbia. UNC is next, getting Columbus, OH because that’s the closest pod left. Gonzaga doesn’t want a pod anyone else wants, so they get Salt Lake City.

Then we get to the actual interesting part.

Tennessee, as the top 2 seed, gets the closest pod geographically to them, which is Columbus. As the top seed in their pod, they drag alllll the other teams in their pod to Columbus with them, which is why Cincinnati has the chance to play two virtual home games, kinda screwing Tennessee. (PURDUE FANS: This is why you might get Villanova in Hartford, CT. By the time you get to pick your pod (as the highest team in your pod), the closest Pod to you that isn’t filled by a higher seed is Hartford. Columbus is taken by UNC and Tennessee, Des Moines is taken by Michigan and MSU. Sorry!)

As you can see, the pod preferences only matter for the top 4 seeds in each region. Everyone who’s a five seed or lower gets “dragged” into whatever pod the highest seed in their pod chose/got assigned.

Now...there’s gotta be some unknown/hidden factors to this. Iowa is the top 10 seed, but they’re headed to the Louisville regional instead of the Kansas City one? Marquette is the top 5 seed but they’re headed to Anaheim? Why?

No idea, but I’m guessing that the ironclad “send the team to their closest regional” gets less emphasis for the teams that aren’t “supposed to” make it to the Sweet Sixteen.

So there you (kinda) go.

Why is MSU in the same region as Duke? Geography and the fact that Tennessee is a higher-ranked two seed.

Why does Kansas get a virtual home game in the Sweet Sixteen? Geography and the fact Kansas is the highest-ranked four seed.

Why does Purdue have to play in Connecticut instead of Des Moines or Columbus? Because higher seeds already have dibs on those pods.

This still doesn’t totally explain why so many B1G teams are in the same regions, as Iowa clearly didn’t get the regional closest to its campus. Nor does it explain totally why Iowa is playing an Iowa game against Cincinnati in the first round. But it’s Iowa. Who cares?


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