IOWA CITY -- The NCAA altered its men's basketball selection principles to allow conference teams to meet more frequently in the tournament's earlier rounds.
Conferences rivals formerly were placed away from one another until the regional finals. But changes will allow teams that have met only once during the regular season to face one another in the tournament's third round (round of 32). It's designed to make the seed list more accurate — and give geographic sites a major boost — when the 68-team bracket is announced.
"The one discomfort the committee had practically annually was the seeds and honoring the true seed list that the committee put together and then having to move teams from as little as one line to as much as two lines because of the brackets and principles that we needed to follow," said Ron Wellman, chairman of the Division I men's basketball championship committee.
With the tournament's growth from 64 teams to now 68 and conference expansion, power conference schools qualify more often. In the NCAA's history, a league sent at least seven teams to tournament 18 times, including 12 since 2007.
The previous guidelines did not allow more than two teams from a conference to compete in the same region unless nine or more teams qualified. That happened with the Big East in 2011 (11 teams) and 2012 (nine).
Wellman said twice teams were dropped two lines to accommodate those principles. In 2012, BYU shifted from a 12 to a 14 seed and was forced to play a First Four match-up. In 2007, Marquette was slated a 6 seed but fell to an 8.
Among the other alterations include preventing teams that have played twice to meet before the Sweet Sixteen. Teams that have met three times cannot play again until the regional finals. Schools from the same league seeded one through four won't compete in the same NCAA region.
"(The NCAA staff has) determined that 90 percent of the seed line moves that occurred in the last three years would have been eliminated in the new principles were in effect over the last three years," Wellman said.
The new principles could boost local attendance at NCAA tournament sites. For instance Wisconsin and Michigan State play only once this year. If they don't meet again in the Big Ten Tournament, they could face one another in a 2014 third-round game in Milwaukee. Similarly, Iowa and Indiana could play a round-of-32 game in St. Louis.
"Geography is important, and we do believe that these new principles will play out nicely in terms of geography and the travel distance that our teams and fans are going to have to make," Wellman said.