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Wednesday, July 11
Updated: July 13, 1:50 PM ET
NCAA radically changes bracketing scheme

INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike Tranghese saw the problem last March when putting together the brackets for the NCAA men's tournament.

Maryland, George Mason, Georgetown and Hampton -- all schools along the East Coast -- were sent to Boise, Idaho. Indiana went to San Diego and Oklahoma State went to New York.

Right then, Tranghese knew something had to be done to reduce travel.

On Thursday, the NCAA announced its remedy: It would place a greater emphasis on geography when placing teams at first- and second-round sites.

"This has been talked about for several years," said Tranghese, last year's selection committee chairman. "What caused us to get a handle on this now, I think, was that this year, we kept sending people further and further away."

To adapt, the Division I Men's Basketball Committee approved a plan that will place four teams into each subregional site and then place the subregional into a regional. In the past, the sites were already set and the committee slotted teams into the sites.

The changes will not impact the current rule, which prohibits teams from playing at a site where they play three or more games outside of the conference tournament.

But it could give the men's tournament a similar look to the women's tournament where sites, such as Storrs, Conn., sometimes are placed into regionals far away, such as the South.

Tranghese even sought advice from Maryalyce Jeremiah, the women's selection committee chair.

"I took it upon myself to talk to Maryalyce and asked her to share some of her views about that," he said. "Nothing she could tell me was really a negative.

"We couldn't shoot any holes through it."

That's when Tranghese and the committee proceeded, devoting almost all of two half-day sessions to this issue.

The hope is that the move will help increase attendance at early round games. Last year, the NCAA said, three non-dome sites drew less than 89 percent of capacity.

The biggest reason for the move, however, is to limit costs and missed class time.

"We never heard any pressure directly from the presidents, but, clearly, you hear concerns from the presidents in my league," said Tranghese, who is commissioner of the Big East.

And presidents and coaches weren't the only ones voicing complaints about the 2001 tournament draw.

"During the past tournament, we received many e-mails and phone calls from fans and parents who said 'We love the NCAA tournament and we love the fact that our son or our team are playing in it, but we can't get there because it costs too much,"' NCAA spokesman James Marchiony said.

But with almost all of the schools in four of the six "power" conferences located east of the Mississippi River, Tranghese said there would be no effort to place more games in those parts of the country. The six "power" conferences are the Atlantic Coast, the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern.

The committee also will now have the flexibility to place the fourth team selected from a conference in the same region as the highest-seeded team from that conference. Previously, once the highest-seeded team from a conference was assigned a region, no other team from that conference could be assigned there until the sixth team was selected from that conference.

The changes also will not affect seedings but could alter matchups. For instance, Marchiony said, the team ranked 63rd would remain a No. 16 seed but could draw any of the four top seeds -- trying to keep them as near their home city as possible.

"The sites will still be based largely on that S-curve, and the first team on the line will have the first choice of where you'd go," Marchiony said.

Still, Tranghese realizes this is no cure-all and some teams will continue to travel long distances. But it is a start.

"I think this is a logical time to do this," he said. "I think there's a lot of focus on this now, and we were all looking for ways to make it a better experience for the student-athletes."
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