Prepare for a First Four before the Final Four
What happened: The NCAA unveiled its plans for the expanded 68-team men’s basketball tournament on Monday, opting for a format that involves the lowest seeds and last at-large qualifiers in a “First Four” round.
What it means: Beginning next March, eight teams will play early in the first week, with the winners advancing to games on Thursday or Friday. The NCAA decided against picking the lowest eight seeds for the new round. Instead, two of the early games will match the tournament’s lowest seeds, Nos. 65 through 68, with the winners advancing to play a top seed. The other two games will match the last four at-large qualifiers. The format probably will prevent mid-majors from being over-represented in the first round, and could also mean that two teams from bigger conferences — those generally seeded between 11th and 13th — will be out before the tournament really gets going.
What they’re saying: “You’re not going to come up with the perfect model,” committee chair Dan Guerrero said. “You’re not going to come up with a model that is going to appease every constituency out there. But we felt that this model provided the opportunity to do something special for the tournament.”
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