What's the bracket arithmetic this year?
A total of 32 Division I conferences will place an automatic qualifier into the 2017 NCAA tournament field. As the tournament requires 36 at-large selections as part of its expanded 68-team format, there are four opening-round games -- called the "First Four" -- played Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of the main bracket. These contests, to be held March 14-15 in Dayton, Ohio, will pair the last four at-large selections for two games and the last four automatic qualifiers in two more.
Why is that team listed from such-and-such conference?
Teams listed in ALL CAPS are the current league or KenPom leaders (for preseason brackets, the consensus postseason champion is listed). Other teams from multiple-bid conferences that project to earn an at-large bid regardless of their league position are listed without CAPS.
Who can't go where?
Memphis (South) and St. John's (East) cannot be placed in their respective geographic regions if they qualify or are selected for the 2017 NCAA field. Each school is hosting regional semifinals and finals this season. Utah, Marquette, Central Florida, IUPUI, Furman, Stetson, Tulsa and Sacramento State are sub-regional hosts and would also be bracketed away from their respective sites. Dayton, as was the case two years ago, can play in the "First Four" at the U.D. Arena if the Flyers are among the last four at-large selections.
Will teams allegedly play closer to home again this year?
For the 15th time, the NCAA men's basketball committee will not predetermine the regional designation of each of the eight sub-regional sites (what it calls the "pod" system). This gives the committee increased flexibility to reduce travel for teams and fans, as well as create more local interest at sub-regional sites that may not be traditional basketball areas. For example, the sub regional site in Buffalo could send its winners to Sacramento (West Regional) instead of, say, the East Regional in New York, if the committee thinks it makes more geographic sense for the teams involved.
Didn't they re-seed the field the past few years?
And won't that mess up my office pool? Clearly the most important questions of any season, the answers are "not really" and "definitely not." In a practice that began in 2004, the tournament committee makes public its internal ranking of the four No. 1 seeds and the respective regions are then paired according to those rankings (No. 1 versus No. 4; No. 2 versus No. 3). No longer will the regions be paired in a rotating fashion (e.g., East versus West, South versus Midwest) for the national semifinals. The idea is to prevent a matchup of the nation's two best teams before the national championship game if, as was the case nine years ago, all four No. 1 seeds advance to the Final Four. Fortunately, since these determinations are made on Selection Sunday, the bracket -- and thus every "amusement-only" contest in the land -- is unaffected once the 68-team field is announced.
What else is new?
The following institutions are ineligible for the 2017 men's basketball championship as they are reclassifying to full Division I status: Massachusetts-Lowell (America East), Abilene Christian (Southland), Incarnate Word (Southland) and Grand Canyon (WAC). These additional institutions are ineligible for the 2017 tournament due to APR sanctions: Alcorn State (SWAC) and Savannah State (MEAC). Hawaii is ineligible per NCAA sanctions. There are no Independents for the 2016-17 season.
Read all NCAA tournament principles and procedures here.