WNUR Bracketology 2020 – Week #3: Closed on Sunday

Another week, another bracket. Exciting! We’re gonna do things a little differently this week: projections first, then the column. You’ll understand why. In addition to the usual disclaimers, please note that the projections you’re about to see do not account for Tuesday’s games, as I spent my Monday night watching Northwestern women’s basketball run the Spartans off the floor. I hope you can forgive me.

The Usual Disclaimers

  • This is what I think the committee would do given what we know about each team. I do not necessarily agree with the committee’s projected evaluations of these teams.
  • My bracketology does not aim to predict what will happen; it is a simulation of what would happen if the season ended today.
  • Asterisks in the graphic denote conference champions (determined by whoever has the fewest losses in conference play, with NET as a tiebreaker).
  • Please feel free to @ me on Twitter but keep all of this in mind when you do.

The Projections

The Column

I’ve heard that you can learn a lot about a person by the way they handle putting together IKEA furniture. I can tell you that I’ve never truly put together something from IKEA, but if I did I’d imagine you’d learn that 1) I do not have a future in carpentry and 2) I am a very big believer in reading the instructions.

Bracketology is just like putting together IKEA furniture, except the hardest part is organizing the pieces in the first place. Putting them together is actually quite easy because the instructions are very clear.

Every bracket I have ever assembled, I have done so in accordance with the principles and procedures for bracketing explicitly stated by the NCAA. It’s pretty thorough, which makes my life easier.

But then I got a tweet last week. Shoutout to Anthony Nelson.

You see, BYU cannot play on Sunday for religious regions. You’d think this wouldn’t pose much of problem, given that it’s so simple, but that’s not the case.

The committee starts building the bracket after it has ranked the 68 teams it has selected for the tournament. Here’s a simplified four-step process of how the bracket is built:

  1. The top 16 teams (seeds 1-4) are placed into the bracket
  2. The bracket so far is reviewed to ensure that each region is relatively balanced. If not, necessary adjustments are made
  3. First weekend sites are assigned to each of the top 16 teams. So for example, #1 overall seed Baylor chooses Omaha, the first weekend site closest to their campus. Baylor is the 1-seed in the South. Thus, the 1-16 and 8-9 games in the South will be played in Omaha. The winner of that game will play the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 in Houston, the South regional site. The winners of those two games will play each other two days later, also in Omaha.
  4. The remaining 52 teams are placed into the bracket

This means that before 5 through 16 seed is placed into the bracket, the first and second weekend sites have already been determined for every slot in the bracket. Perhaps you can see where this is going.

This week, I had BYU ranked 29th, or making them the first 8-seed to be placed on the bracket. BYU cannot play on Sundays, so they cannot go to the South or the East, because the Elite 8 games for those two regions will be played on a Sunday.

That leaves the Midwest and the West. If BYU went to the West, and won their 8-9 game, they would likely face 1-seed Gonzaga in the second round. Teams that have already played each other twice in a season cannot meet in the second round. It’s in the principles and procedures.

So BYU is placed as the 8-seed in the Midwest and everyone lived happily ever after. Except they didn’t, because the 1-seed in the Midwest is Kansas, who chose Omaha as their first weekend site. Omaha is a Friday/Sunday site.

So what now? There’s nothing in the principles and procedures about this. There is no Cougar Contingency, no Provo Provision. This isn’t in the instruction manual.

BYU has to be placed into a West or Midwest slot with a top-4 seed that elected to play the first two rounds at a Thursday/Saturday site: Albany, Spokane, St. Louis, or Tampa. But BYU does not have to be an 8-seed.

Solution 1 is to swap BYU, the best 8-seed, with Texas Tech, the worst 7-seed. But that means punishing Texas Tech for something they have no control over, and now they’re stuck playing a 1-seed in the second round. And now some unlucky 9-seed gets punished because they should be playing an 8-seed in the first round but instead they play Texas Tech, a 7-seed wearing an 8-seed mask. Suddenly there’s widespread resentment of Mormonism in Lubbock, Texas and some other college town, and now we’re three leaps of the imagination away from a civil war. So that’s off the table in my book.

Solution 2 is to bump BYU down from an 8-seed to a 10-seed (making BYU a 9-seed doesn’t solve our original problem), but that means shifting Purdue from the 9-line to the 8-line, and Rhode Island from the 10-line to the 9-line. And now some poor 7-seed gets stuck playing BYU, who in reality is the best 8-seed, in the first round. This is not unprecedented but it does compromise the integrity of the bracket in a way that I’d rather not.

As such, I’ve opted for Solution 3: retroactively assign Kansas to St. Louis instead of Omaha for the first weekend. The only ripple effect this has is Butler going to Omaha instead of St. Louis for the first weekend. The Jayhawks’ 3-hour drive just became a 4-hour drive, but there’s no civil war and the integrity of the bracket remains uncompromised.

The truth is I don’t know what the committee would do in a situation like this. If you know something I don’t, hit me up on Twitter.

All I know is, I’m never going to IKEA.

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