Chairman: Changes good for tourney

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The chairman of the Division I men's basketball committee said changes made last August to the way teams are bracketed in the NCAA tournament will result in a fairer March Madness.

Ron Wellman also said Wednesday that there have been no discussions of expanding the field beyond 68 teams, and that officiating emphasis put in place in the regular season to crack down on physical defense will carry over to the NCAA tournament.

The new bracketing rules should be apparent to most college basketball fans.

Previously, the selection committee tried to keep schools from playing rematches before the regional finals, sometimes moving teams multiple seed lines in the process. Wellman said relaxing that policy allows the committee to honor their seeding, creating a fairer overall bracket.

"That first and foremost is important," said Wellman, the athletic director at Wake Forest. "There have been years where we've had to drop a team or promote a team; there was even a year where teams dropped two seed lines. We don't feel that's appropriate."

Under the new policy, teams that have played once could meet in the third round of the NCAA tournament, and teams that have played twice could meet in the Sweet 16. The committee will still try to avoid teams that have met three times from playing before the regional finals.

Another benefit is that the committee will have more latitude in assigning teams to sites closer to home, thereby easing the travel burden shared by schools and their fans.

"We spend so much time getting teams in order, setting them one through 68, and it's not until the process is fully vetted that we begin the bracketing process," Wellman said. "Now, we think we have much greater flexibility to honor the seed lines that we established."

Wellman also addressed several other topics during a break in the committee's orientation meeting in Indianapolis, which concludes with its annual mock selection:

• There have been no discussions of further expansion to the tournament, despite more parity in the game. This will be the fourth year that there are 68 teams in the field.

• Officials will emphasize rules against hand-checking and physical defense during the NCAA tournament, just as they have during the regular season. The idea is to free up players and allow for more offense, but the result has often been games that resembled foul shooting contests.

"The result of these new officiating emphases has been positive, even though we know this process will take longer than one year," Wellman said. "The bottom line is the stakeholders all want the game to be less physical and have more freedom of movement."

• Wellman said that injuries will remain a consideration for the selection committee, though he acknowledged that each member places a different value on them. That's important for bubble teams such as Colorado, which lost star guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a torn ACL in January.

• The committee not only will consider strength of schedule and RPI, but also a school's intentions in scheduling. Wichita State is trying to land a No. 1 seed, but may be hurt by what is widely perceived as a light schedule. The Shockers have struggled to schedule marquee home-and-home series, and were left in a weakened Missouri Valley Conference after Creighton's departure.

"Often times, schools will develop a schedule thinking it's a very strong schedule, only to have their opponents fall on their face, and the schedule isn't nearly as strong as what they thought it might be," Wellman said. "Those are some of the factors that we look at."