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Old 03-16-2018, 05:17 PM
jebert jebert is offline
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Explain basketball tournament brackets to me

OK, I understand the basics of single-elimination tournaments and seeding, but I have noticed what, to me, are some peculiarities in recent college conference tournaments and the current NCAA men's tournament.

Let's say we have 16 teams in a tournament, and they are seeded (by whatever criteria) from 1 to 16. So in the first round we'd have 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14 and so on. If there were only 15 teams, normally 1 would get a first round bye because there would be no 16, and the rest of the teams would play 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14 and so on as before. Team 1 would then play the winner of 8 vs 9 in the second round. With 14 teams 1 and 2 would get first round byes and the rest would proceed as before, with 1 playing the winner of 8 vs 9 and 2 playing the winner of 7 vs 10 in the second round. At least that is what I'd expect.

But that was not the case in the recent 14-team Big 10 and SEC tournaments (and maybe others as well). In both those cases four teams, 1 thru 4, got first round byes and didn't play until the third round. When did this start and what is the reasoning behind it?

The big NCAA tournament starts with 68 teams, so there are four play-in games, one for each regional bracket. The winners of two of these games enter their regional bracket as the 16 seed, as I would expect. But the winners of the other two games enter their brackets as the 11 seed. Why don't all four enter as 16 seeds, and when did they start doing it that way? What is the reasoning there?
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Old 03-16-2018, 06:16 PM
Casey1505 Casey1505 is offline
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Short answer: money.

Long answer: I'll defer to more articulate posters.
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Old 03-16-2018, 06:24 PM
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running coach running coach is online now
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With only 14 teams, there's a much higher chance of a low seed knocking out a high seed early.
The skill differential is much closer than with 64 teams.
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Old 03-16-2018, 07:03 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is online now
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Originally Posted by jebert View Post
But that was not the case in the recent 14-team Big 10 and SEC tournaments (and maybe others as well). In both those cases four teams, 1 thru 4, got first round byes and didn't play until the third round.
I'm not sure how this would work. I guess if there 14 teams and 4 got two byes, then you'd have to give 6 first-round byes to the remaining 10 to make an effective 16 teams then play two rounds to reduce that to 4, then merge the other 4 back in. Is that what they did?

In any case the number of teams + the number of byes has to equal a power of 2 unless it's double elimination.
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Old 03-16-2018, 08:57 PM
Obeseus Obeseus is offline
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The SEC and Big 10 brackets had two sets of byes. Teams 6-10 got a bye to the 2nd round, and teams 1-4 got a bye to the third round. So the first round consisted of just two games - 11v14 and 12v13. The two winners joined teams 6-10 to make 8 teams for 4 games in the second round. Those four winners moved on to face teams 1-4 in the third round.
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Old 03-16-2018, 09:04 PM
mikecurtis mikecurtis is online now
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what happened to #5?

mc
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Old 03-17-2018, 01:12 AM
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kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Originally Posted by mikecurtis View Post
what happened to #5?

mc
I think that should have been "5-10 get a bye to the second round."
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Old 03-17-2018, 02:20 AM
aktep aktep is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jebert View Post

The big NCAA tournament starts with 68 teams, so there are four play-in games, one for each regional bracket. The winners of two of these games enter their regional bracket as the 16 seed, as I would expect. But the winners of the other two games enter their brackets as the 11 seed. Why don't all four enter as 16 seeds, and when did they start doing it that way? What is the reasoning there?
The "First Four" opening round has been in place since 2011. Before that, since 2001, there was one opening round game and the winner of that game was a 16 seed. When it was expanded to 4 games, two of the games remained a competition for a 16 seed while the other two games were a competition for a higher seed. In this case, those two games are meant to be between the last four teams considered for an at-large berth into the tournament. Since the 15 and 16 seeds are always taken by automatic qualifiers who won their conference tournament but are not expected to be competitive against the big kids, two of the opening round games end up vying for a 11-14 slot.
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Old 03-17-2018, 08:23 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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the ACC also has top 4 teams skipping the first 2 rounds but the ACC has 15 teams for BB. Notre Dame is a member in all sports except FB. They did agree to play 5 ACC teams every year in FB , the teams rotate.
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Old 03-18-2018, 11:28 AM
jebert jebert is offline
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OP here. Thanks for the replies, but none have provided a clear explanation of WHY the brackets are structured the way they are, especially the reason for playing in for an 11 spot. ISTM that with 68 teams in the tournament, teams seeded 65 to 68 should be playing to enter at a 16 spot. Why should they enter at anything higher? And why specifically 11?
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Old 03-18-2018, 11:38 AM
mikecurtis mikecurtis is online now
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NCAA tournament: Why are there play-in games for 11 seeds?

Quote:
so I checked with the NCAA. This is what a spokesman said:

When the Division I menís basketball committee decided to expand the field to 68 teams in advance of the 2011 tournament, they came up with the First Four concept and initially looked at two formats.

The first involved having the last eight teams on the overall seed list (which is a ranking of all 68 teams) to play four games to determine the four No. 16 seeds. The other concept was to take the last eight at-large selections and have those teams play four games to advance.

Eventually they decided on a hybrid of the two options, with the last four at-large teams and the last four on the overall seed list playing for the right to advance to the second round.

Note: he didnít say why, exactly, they decided on the hybrid system.

Since the last four on the seed list are obviously 16 seeds, that was easy to figure out and explain. As for the at-large seeds, it was determined that they would slot into the natural line based on where they ranked on the overall seed list.

So this year, for example, Texas is 41, which makes them an 11 seed. UCLA is 42, which makes them an 11 seed. The last four teams selected were Ole Miss, BYU, Boise St. and Dayton, ranked 43 through 46. Ole Miss and BYU essentially play tonight to figure out the third 11 seed, and Boise and Dayton play tomorrow to determine the fourth.

But all six of those teams (counting Texas and UCLA) are considered 11 seeds, just as the last six teams (the four playing in the First Four: North Florida, Robert Morris, Manhattan and Hampton; and Coastal Carolina and Lafayette, who donít play in the First Four) are all 16 seeds.

So thereís an explanation of what the NCAA is doing. Why are they doing it? As usual, thatís a little muddy. At least we know a little more now?
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Old 03-18-2018, 12:16 PM
aktep aktep is offline
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Yeah, I thought I did explain it enough, because the longer explanation is difficult to type out without alot of background.
It really comes down to the fact that 32 teams get automatic bids to the tournament, and 36 are invited by the committee. The vast majority of those 32 teams are teams like UMBC that have no chance of winning any games because they are from a small conference, or teams from a larger conference who managed to win their conference tournament but otherwise would not have qualified for an invitation. Those teams take up the majority of the 12-16 seeds.
The "first four" games consist of four teams at the bottom of each of the two groups - the last four automatic qualifiers, who play for two of the 16 seeds, and the last four of the invitees, who play for the bottom seeds available after the AQs are slotted, which in this case ends up being 11.
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Old 03-18-2018, 12:23 PM
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The NCAA could have made all four games for the 16 seeds, but one of the complaints when the "opening round" was 1 game for a 16 seed was that it featured teams from small schools who had earned their way into the tournament, but then one of those teams loses in a game in Dayton and never gets to experience the tournament proper. The current setup was a compromise to avoid the idea that 8 of the automatic bids were just meaningless invites to meaningless games held before the actual tournament started.
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Old 03-18-2018, 03:57 PM
jebert jebert is offline
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Thanks. That was a much better explanation for the NCAA tournament.

As for the structure of the conference tournaments (in the case where teams 1-4 get two rounds of byes vs teams 1-2 getting one round of byes), I would guess that it reduces the probability that any of teams 1-4 get knocked out early, and the conference ends up getting represented by an underling. Is that really it?

BTW are there any 16-team conferences, and do any of them distort their brackets this way?
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Old 03-18-2018, 04:31 PM
aktep aktep is offline
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I looked through the brackets here https://www.cbssports.com/collegebas...nce-tournament and did not see any 16 team tournaments this season.

Of possible interest to you, the OVC and Southland Conferences each hold 8 team tournaments where the 1 and 2 seeds are byed all the way to the semifinals. While some of the other formats can be explained away in that it's messy to draw up brackets for 14 or 15 teams, these brackets are clearly designed to protect the top seeds and increase their chances of earning the AQ bid.

Last edited by aktep; 03-18-2018 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 03-18-2018, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jebert View Post
Thanks. That was a much better explanation for the NCAA tournament.

As for the structure of the conference tournaments (in the case where teams 1-4 get two rounds of byes vs teams 1-2 getting one round of byes), I would guess that it reduces the probability that any of teams 1-4 get knocked out early, and the conference ends up getting represented by an underling. Is that really it?

BTW are there any 16-team conferences, and do any of them distort their brackets this way?
Another reason to give two layers of byes in 13-16 team conferences (or play-in games into a 12-team tournament, if you prefer) is that if you didn't want to give anyone serious rest disadvantages, you would have to play six games in one day. That's about 12 hours of game time and 3 hours of mandatory warm-up time for the teams, which causes a problem for facility staffing and television. (That's a little bit about money, I guess.)

Before the Big East spawned the American conference, they had 16 teams. IIRC, 1-4 got a double bye and 5-8 got single byes. This made for a nice 4 games per day at Madison Square Garden for the first three days.
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Old 03-21-2018, 11:21 AM
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There are two main reasons for tourneys being structured the way they are structured.

1 - The advertised reason is the bigger advantage for the better team. You can build a bracket that has 1v8, 2v7, etc which obviously does give an advantage since the better teams play the worse teams. But, in a deep league like the Big 12, the 8th best team is actually decent and an NCAA tournament worthy team as well. So, simply getting to play the 8th best team is nice, but it's not exactly a walkover. Same things happen in youth tourneys, pros, etc. The gap between first place and Xth place might not be that consequential. That's why you also see the added advantage in pro league of having more home games for the higher seeded team as a secondary advantage. In a tournament type one game winner take all setting, the high variability increases the odds a lower seeded team might win. Take the Virginia UMBC game. Have those teams play 100 times. I'd bet that Virginia wins 98+ times. But, this one time happened to include inferno level shooting in the second half for UMBC, completely awful shooting from Virginia, stress killing the UVA players, etc. So tourney oftentimes give extra byes to higher seeded teams as a further reward for their full season body of work.

2 - The main reason is money. This comes into play a couple of ways. Let's say you are the SEC. Your best team is Kentucky - national powerhouse, fans travel insanely well, tons of press coverage, everyone knows them. Your 8th best team is Mississippi - no real history of success, I dare you to name their best player or coach, fans won't really travel, twitter won't take about them. You want to do what you can to get Kentucky it's best shot at being in the tourney as many days as possible for the revenue, publicity, word of mouth, etc. So, instead of Kentucky having to play the 8th seed day 1, you give them a bye. They play the winner of the 4v8 game on day 2 so they get a little more rest, more chances to scout, and an enhanced advantage. The other monetary impact is that by making a tourney with more bye rounds, you will likely increase your tourney from a 3 day to a 4 day event. Extra ticket sales have to happen. More merchandise and food is purchased. You get extra time on TV and in media. All of that adds up to cash. If you are a big conference like the ACC, you know that any cost of running a tourney for 4 days instead of 3 is going to be wildly outpaced by the incoming revenue of thousands of fans flocking to the event. If you are a smaller conference, you don't have that luxury, so you might be more likely to keep it conventional.


Long story short, if the NCAA is involved, they will give lip service to competition, but the real answer is money.
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Old 03-21-2018, 12:28 PM
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It's not just "the bigger advantage for the better team", although there should be a reward for regular season and post conference tournament success. It's also a matter of fairness as in it is NOT fair to have two powerhouses play each other in the first round while two relative weaklings are playing each other in the first round because that would mean one of the powerhouses would have to be eliminated and one of the weaklings would have to advance.

Besides, if the weaker team like UMBC does beat the stronger team like Virginia, it takes the place of the stronger team in the bracket and continues with the draw that the stronger team was going to inherit if it had won. It really is the fairest method of doing it.

Now, the precise seeding is another matter. That's a matter of judgment by the committee, and there is always grumbling every year as to the accuracy and fairness of the seeding process. There's no way around it, though, because many of the teams chosen have not played many of the other teams head to head, so it's pretty much based on how strong a given conference is perceived to be, how tough a team's non-conference schedule was perceived to be, how well a given team was playing at the end of the season, etc.
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Old 03-22-2018, 12:07 PM
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Nitpick: ND is in the Big Ten for hockey only.
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