NCAA selections: Changing precedent

Posted by: Mike Machnik

Brackets for the Division I tournament were announced today, and there’s no question they’ve sparked a lot of discussion. Adam has analysis here, with some comments from committee chair Joel Maturi (Minnesota AD) confirming the decision this year to protect the top two seeds overall, Michigan and Miami, by keeping them away from the two venues where the host team will play — Colorado College (No. 2 seed) and Wisconsin (No. 3 seed).

The decision to protect top seed Michigan wasn’t a big surprise.

The real surprise was the protection of Miami as the second seed overall. In fact, as others have noted, this goes against decisions made by other committees when the second seed could have been protected but wasn’t.

You can really only look at the brackets since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003 for a reasonable comparison, but just in the five years of that setup prior to this year, you can find three examples where #2 was not protected.

In 2003, Colorado College was sent to Ann Arbor, where No. 3 seed Michigan was hosting. CC was beaten in the regional final by the Wolverines that year.

In 2004, Boston College was the second seed overall and went to Manchester, N.H., where New Hampshire was a No. 3 seed. Although Manchester isn’t UNH’s home arena, it’s sort of their second home, as they have played one or two games a year there since the arena opened. And the rink was filled with a majority of Wildcat fans. As it turned out, UNH was eliminated by Michigan in the first round, and BC topped the Wolverines in the final to advance to he Frozen Four.

And in 2006, Minnesota as the second seed went to Grand Forks, N.D., with North Dakota as host and a No. 2 seed. That was the year, of course, that Holy Cross upset the Gophers and was then beaten by the Sioux the next night.

Those precedents made it surprising to me that the committee would choose to protect Miami as well this season. The committee isn’t bound by precedent, of course, but it seemed that the precedent was so strong in recent years, that a decision like this only opens a new can of worms for the future.

If you’re the second ranked team next year or the year after, you’d certainly seem to have a reason to complain if you aren’t afforded the same protection.

And if you’re Colorado College, well, it’s all water under the bridge now, but don’t you wish you had this committee in place five years ago?

For the record, I agree with Adam that protecting the top seeds (note plural) is not necessarily a bad thing. But I think what we have all come to expect from the process and appreciate about it, is the consistency that we’ve almost always had. You’d like to be able to look at decisions that were made and say, I understand that, because in similar situations before, they’ve done the same thing.

I just don’t think you can do that this year. And it leads me to wonder what will happen in the future. Will a different committee follow the precedent this one set? Or will they go back to what was done a few years prior?

Perhaps the answer is to put it in writing. Currently it’s just an unwritten rule, that the top seeds will be protected if possible. Let’s make it official as one of the steps the committee will follow.

Then everyone will know, and there won’t be any surprises. At least until the next unwritten rule comes to the forefront…

Leave a Reply