When hosts aren't among the top seeds
Committee faces conundrum of putting No. 2 seeds on foes' home court in second round
Who would have thought that the likely No. 1 seeds would affect teams eyeing a potential 8 and 9 seed? And when does a No. 3 seed ever sound better than a No. 2?
The fact that the top four seeds -- Baylor, Connecticut, Stanford and Tennessee -- are also serving as hosts for the first two rounds actually limits other teams' seed possibilities. If the top seeds hold -- and let's be honest, they are virtual locks -- Ohio State, Louisiana Tech and Gonzaga can't be No. 8 or 9 seeds because those teams are also first- and second-round hosts.
The Buckeyes appear to have played themselves into a better seed than 8-9 anyway, but don't expect the Lady Techsters and Bulldogs to be anything but 10 or 11 seeds. And the scenario can get even more limiting for those two.
Let's say Ohio State ends up as a No. 7 seed. If Duke and Xavier also hold as No. 2 seeds, that leaves only one No. 10 seed available because the Buckeyes, Blue Devils and Musketeers are already locked into hosting those subregionals. Even if Louisiana Tech or Gonzaga has "earned" a better seed, one of them will be forced to be a No. 11. It won't matter what their credentials or résumés say they should be.
This is just one example of the speed bumps that the committee must deal with in putting the NCAA tournament bracket together. Complaints abound each year that certain teams didn't appear to be seeded properly (too low is the most common gripe), but sometimes it's these kind of scenarios that force the hand of the committee. No one is getting discriminated against. Conspiracy theories aren't running rampant. It's just the rules.
The above circumstance can actually play even deeper into a committee dilemma. For argument's sake, let's say Ohio State is in fact a No. 7 seed, with Duke, Xavier and Texas A&M as 2-seeds. If either Louisiana Tech or Gonzaga are also got a No. 10 seed, then both A&M and the other No. 2 are potentially set to play a second-round game on their opponent's home floor. The committee is loath to put teams in certain hardships too frequently (statements to that effect are in the principles and procedures manual). These extra burdens are typically playing on someone else's home court or excessive travel. Well, the Aggies actually had both last March when they traveled to Seattle and had to play Gonzaga in the second round. Texas A&M lost to the Bulldogs and a wonderful season came to an end just like that.
So what's the committee to do? Let's say Louisiana Tech was a No. 10 seed. That means that Texas A&M is going to either Columbus or Shreveport with another second-round road game staring the Aggies in the face. It's unfortunate enough (although necessary under circumstances of the game and the rules of the host schools) that a team ever has to potentially play a road game in the tournament. Two years in a row is patently unfair. Therefore, it's doubtful the committee would force Texas A&M into this again, meaning that under this somewhat likely, if not probable, circumstance, Ohio State and/or Louisiana Tech would be moved a seed line. The Buckeyes become a No. 6, the Lady Techsters a No. 11. Just like that. This scenario is one of the many reasons why the stipulation exists to allow a team to be moved a seed line.
For better or worse, this is hardly make-believe. Until Ohio State's recent hot streak, the Buckeyes were playing more like a No. 8 or 9 seed, meaning the only places they could be moved created this problem. As someone who follows the process as closely as he does, a second year in a row of playing as the road team would not have sat well with Aggies coach Gary Blair. Ohio State's six-game win streak might have, in fact, saved the committee considerable anguish.
Yet even with that above scenario eliminated, a strong possibility exists that whatever school ends up earning that final No. 2 seed could easily be playing in Shreveport or Spokane, if not Columbus, in the opening rounds. That's exactly what happened to Miami in this week's bracket. Granted, the CenturyTel Center is not Louisiana Tech's home court and Shreveport is not the school's home city, but the advantage is clear.
Sometimes the process includes more to think about than throwing the best number in front of a school name.
Speaking of the No. 2 seeds, the final one probably won't be determined until the conference tournaments are played out. Duke and Texas A&M look like locks for those spots. If Xavier goes anywhere deep in the Atlantic 10 tournament, it's hard to envision any scenario where the Musketeers aren't also a No. 2.
As of now, it might be Miami's to lose, but the road through the ACC tournament is a difficult one. Monday's game between Notre Dame and DePaul in Chicago will have huge significance. The loser of that game is likely out of the running, narrowing the competition for the final No. 2 seed to four teams. A Big Ten tournament title for Michigan State without UCLA or Miami also winning their league tournaments would give it to the Spartans. If either Notre Dame or DePaul could knock off UConn on its way to a Big East title, a No. 2 seed is likely theirs. If the Bruins upset Stanford in the Pac-10 tournament, denying UCLA a 2-seed would be difficult.
This will be a big part of the fun of championship week. Then again, if going on the road is in fact the reward, perhaps being a No. 3 seed is better.
Charlie Creme can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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