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NCAA changes bracketing for 2021 men's basketball tournament

Chris Bumbaca

The NCAA men's basketball tournament being played in one location – Indiana – this year isn't only a logistical anomaly. The seeding of this year's tournament for the 68 teams will be different too. 

While the committee ranks every team ahead of the big dance, the 2021 tournament will feature mostly true seeding, since all of the games are played in one area. Normally, the committee's bracketing decisions are driven by the school's geographic proximity to the tournament site. 

"It became clear that the S-curve bracketing option makes the most sense, given the unique circumstances with which this tournament will be played,” NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said in the release announcing the changes. “In a normal year, bracketing is done with consideration given to keeping as many teams as close to their campus as possible, reducing team travel and providing as many fans as possible an opportunity to watch their favorite teams participate in The Big Dance."

The 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament will be played entirely in Indiana.

With geography not a consideration this year, the bracketing will follow the "S-curve" method. The top four teams will be seeded in four separate brackets, and the No. 5 overall seed (the highest 2-seed) will be placed in the same "region" as the No. 4 overall seed (the lowest 1-seed). The No. 8 overall seed would be placed in the bracket with the No. 1 overall seed, and so would be the No. 9 overall seed (the top three seed). 

The process would then repeat itself for the remaining seeds. The NCAA said the committee intends "to stay true to the S-curve," but the following intra-conference considerations will still apply as they have in years past: 

  • The top four teams from one conference will be in different regions if they are seeded on the first four lines. 
  • Teams shall not meet before the regional final if they played three or more times during the regular season and should not play before the regional semifinals if they played twice
  • Rematches of nonconference games in the First Four and first round should be avoided. 

This year's March Madness will take place at a variety of arenas across the state, including Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis; Mackey Arena in West Lafayette (Purdue); and Assembly Hall in Bloomington (Indiana University). Selection Sunday is March 14. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.