A look at the options for the 68-team field

June, 28, 2010

The NCAA tournament selection committee isn't expected to come to a consensus on how to format the new 68-team tournament at a meeting this week in Chicago.

The hope is that the 10-member committee can at least come to a compromise so that a formal announcement can come sometime later next month.

NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen, who manages the NCAA tournament, said there wouldn't be an announcement this week but indicated the format would be revealed sometime in July. The NCAA signed a new $10.8 billion, 14-year agreement with CBS/Turner to televise the tournament; the new contract begins in 2011.

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AP Photo/Ric FrancisChairman Dan Guerrero and the NCAA tournament selection committee are looking to find a format compromise by July.

The meeting of the full 10-member committee began late Monday, and they were going to discuss three possible scenarios on how to format the new 68-team tournament for 2011.

The outgoing committee chair, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, said by phone from Chicago there are three possible options:

1. Seed the field from 1 to 17, with the 61 through 68 true seeds playing four opening-round games (that's the 16 versus 17 seeds). The winners would then move to the 16 line and play the No. 1 seeds as previously done in the bracket. Each winner would get a full winner's share unit, which was valued at $225,000 last year, paid out over a six-year period, according to Shaheen.

2. Take the last at-large teams selected for the tournament in the seed lines where they were seeded by the committee and have them play for those seed lines. You could have two teams playing for the 10th seed, two for the 11th seed, two for the 12th seed and two for the 13th seed. The winners, like the scenario above, would get the unit share. The corresponding seed (7 for the 10, 6 for the 11, 5 for the 12 and 4 for the 13) would know on Selection Sunday the two possible opponents it would play.

3. Guerrero detailed a third scenario, called the hybrid option, that hasn't been seriously vetted yet but has had some movement through the membership.

Under this plan, the tournament is seeded 1 through 68. The last four at-large teams are pitted against each other. For example, No. 10 would play No. 13, No. 11 would play No. 12.

The winners of those two games would then move to the highest seed line. So if a 13 beat a 10, it would move to 10. If 12 beat 11, it would move to 11. If the higher seeds won, then they would stay the same.

The four 17 seeds would play, as well. And the two winners would replace the two 16 seeds which would have to move up one seed line to replace the spot vacated by the losers of the two at-large games. So, if suddenly the 12 and 13 are gone in a particular region, everyone in that region moves up one slot.

"It's one option that is being presented,'' Guerrero said.

For the past two months, discussions have occurred at conference meetings about which direction to take regarding the new format. There hasn't been a consensus, from power-six conferences to automatic qualifying leagues.

"There is no consensus in any way, shape or form,'' Guerrero said. "The opinions have varied from conference to conference.''

The Big East sent a memo to the NCAA detailing the troubles of giving a team one game to play before it meets another, as is the case in scenarios 2 and 3 (really No. 1 as well, but no one seems to mind if the 17 and 16 seeds have to play an extra game). The example used by the Big East is the double-bye scenario in its conference tournament, when the teams waiting to play have been beaten by the teams that already played a game. That's why the coaches voted to get rid of the double-bye format (this still needs to be approved by the athletic directors and presidents in the Big East).

Guerrero said he anticipates a healthy discussion on the various options and is hopeful for a compromise.

Guerrero is chairing his last meeting and will be gone by Tuesday morning to Omaha, Neb., to watch Game 2 of the College World Series between UCLA and South Carolina. He's looking for a rare double spring sweep after the Bruins' softball team won the national title.

He will be replaced on the committee by Utah State athletic director Scott Barnes, who along with SMU athletic director Steve Orsini (who will replace Kent State AD Laing Kennedy) is in Chicago observing the meeting. But neither Barnes nor Orsini will have voting privileges for the new format. They will officially start their five-year terms in September.

The other eight members of the committee who are returning include: 2011 chair and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Xavier AD Mike Bobinski, Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman, Connecticut AD Jeff Hathaway, UT-San Antonio AD Lynn Hickey, Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton, UC Riverside AD Stan Morrison and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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