The NCAA announced on Thursday some changes to the basketball tournament process in an effort to give the committee more flexibility in creating fair matchups, as well as deal with increased conference sizes.
The biggest change is that teams from the same conference may now meet much earlier than a regional final. Previously, teams from the same league were bracketed to meet before then only in the event that nine or more teams from that league made the tournament. With the larger sizes of some of the major conferences, it's more likely that kind of situation will occur.
2014 NCAA tournament selection chairman Ron Wellman said on a Thursday conference call that "honoring the true seed list" has been a frustration for the committee in his four years there. There were times when regulations required a team to be dropped a line. The NCAA noted two instances since 2007 when teams were in fact moved two seed lines: BYU in 2011 (going from a 12 to a 14) and Marquette in 2007 (going from a 6 to an 8). Those moves were against the bracketing rules at the time, but are ok now in "extraordinary circumstances."
However, these changes to the process are designed to minimize the number of seed swaps. "We believe the changes made by the committee this summer speaks to that issue," Wellman said.
The new rules will be enforced with consideration given to how often the two conference foes met in the regular season.
• If teams met three or more times, they will still be restricted from playing each other before a regional final. However, if they only met twice, they could play as early as a regional semifinal, and if they only played each other once, they could be bracketed to meet in the round of 32.
• Also, the rule that places the top three teams from the same conference in different regionals will now only apply to teams seeded in the top four spots in a region. The new rule says that the top four teams from a conference will be in different regions as long as they are in the top four lines of the bracket. After that, the separation rule no longer applies.
Honoring the true seeds is the most critical part of this tweak to the selection process, Wellman said. The NCAA staff looked at last three years of brackets and concluded 90 percent of seed line moves that occurred would have been eliminated with the new principles in place. As for how geography/travel still plays a part in where teams are placed, Wellman said, "In the future I don't envision seeds to be sacrificed for geography."
Wellman also spoke to guidelines that were agreed upon but not yet set in stone. Namely, determining self-imposed deadlines for when the selection committee -- which gathers in Indianapolis five days before Selection Sunday -- will have its selected teams arranged, its 1-68 seed line in order, and when the bracketing process should begin.
"We definitely will have a timeline established for when we want to have certain points," Wellman said, adding that the details on the timeline will "be settled in the coming months."
Finally, potential rematches of non-conference games had always been limited to the Sweet 16 or later. That too has been relaxed. Now, those games will be allowed in the round of 32.
Join NCAA vice president of men's basketball championships Dan Gavitt and CBSSports.com's college basketball team for a chat about the changes Friday at 11 a.m. ET.
Below you can see how this year's bracket might have looked based on the new rules and the 1-68 seed list the committee released.
1. Louisville vs 16 NC A&T/Liberty
8. North Carolina vs 9. Colorado
4. Saint Louis vs 13. Montana
5. UNLV vs 12. Bucknell
2. Duke vs 15. Albany
7. Notre Dame vs 10. Oklahoma
3. Michigan State vs 14. Valparaiso
6. Butler vs 11. Cal
In the real bracket, Cal had been dropped to a 12-seed, presumably to keep the bears closer to home, and had a regular season rematch in its opening game with UNLV. The Rebels are likely happier with this potential draw. Note that two of the top three teams from both the ACC and A-10 are in this region, but aren't seeded high enough to matter under the new rules.
1. Gonzaga vs 16. Southern U.
8. Colorado State vs 9. Wichita State
4. Kansas State vs 13. South Dakota State
5. Wisconsin vs 12. LaSalle/Middle Tennessee
2. Ohio State vs 15. Florida Gulf Coast
7. Creighton vs 10. Cincinnati
3. New Mexico vs 14. Harvard
6. Arizona vs 11. Minnesota
In this region, the First Four matchup that should have happened does, and at its proper seed. Also, both Missouri Valley teams live here and Ohio State and Minnesota are in the same half of the bracket. Those situations are OK now.
1. Kansas vs 16. Long Island/James Madison
8. Pittsburgh vs 9. Missouri
4. Michigan vs 13. Akron
5. Oklahoma State vs 12 Boise State/St. Mary's
2. Georgetown vs 15. Iona
7. Illinois vs 10. Villanova
3. Florida vs 14. Northwestern State
6. UCLA vs 11. Belmont
The South also has a First Four game as a 12 seed, as it should have been. Villanova and Georgetown can meet in the round of 32 because they only met once in the regular season. Kansas and Oklahoma State are not only two of the top three Big 12 teams, they are in the same half of the bracket. Two of the top three SEC teams are here as well.
1. Indiana vs 16. Western Kentucky
8. NC State vs 9. Temple
4. Syracuse vs 13. New Mexico State
5. VCU vs 12. Ole Miss
2. Miami vs 15. Pacific
7. San Diego State vs 10. Iowa State
3. Marquette vs 14. Davidson
6. Memphis vs 11. Oregon
The rules don't fix the problem of Oregon being grossly underseeded, but at least they don't have to be dropped for geographic reasons. This is the cleanest of the new regions. Only VCU and Temple being in the same half of the bracket would have been a problem under the old rules.
-- Matt Norlander contributed to this story.