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C.L. Brown, ESPN Staff Writer 268d

Mick Cronin: Ticket sales drive NCAA tourney seeding

Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said ticket sales, not wins or losses, are primarily behind how teams get seeded in the NCAA tournament.

Joe Lunardi predicts in his latest Bracketology that Cincinnati (25-4) will be a No. 5 seed and headed to Buffalo for first- and second-round games. The Bearcats are unlikely to be seeded high enough to make a relatively short trip to a host site in Indianapolis.

"I'm a firm believer in that the NCAA tournament committee and everything is so financially driven that no matter what is said on that [Selection] Sunday, they're trying to sell tickets," Cronin said while speaking to a group of local reporters on Wednesday.

"You may get moved on a seed line. And it may not be us, but teams could get moved around from 4 to a 5 or a 8-9 to a 7-10 to get that pod to sell more tickets. Now nobody will admit that, because it's all about the student-athletes -- supposedly. But it's a business. If it wasn't a business we'd be able to have a bus trip in the conference we played in."

The NCAA went to a pod system in 2002 that allows the top four seeds to play at the closest site possible, regardless of the seed's tournament region. 

Not everyone would agree with Cronin that ticket sales drive seeding. The bulk of the NCAA windfall, which is shared with conferences, comes from television deals, not ticket sales. The March Madness TV deal brings in an average of $785 million per year through 2024 and $1.1 billion annually for the eight years after that.

Cronin, however, doesn't want people to think that the seeding process is devoid of outside influences.

"Anybody who doesn't think this is a business is wrong, living in a fantasy land," Cronin said. "That's why I tell you, you can sit there and think, 'Well, we won this game, we'll move up.' You can move up, but then you can end up playing a tougher team [because] the seedings were wrong. You really just have to worry about coaching your team. The rest is a waste of time."

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