In anticipation of Monday’s NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament selection show, ESPN put its veteran bracketologist, Charlie Creme, on a conference call this morning.
I asked him the question many would like answered: Is UConn going to be sent to Louisville or Lincoln, NE – and why.
After placing UConn at Louisville all season as the No. 1 seed, setting up a possible fourth meeting with the Cardinals in an Elite Eight game, Creme changed up this week by playing UConn in Lincoln with Baylor as its No. 2 seed.
“The reason I have had it set up the way I did for so long is this was the way the selection committee has done it for the last few years,” Creme said. “But Sunday [when Creme moved the Huskies to Lincoln] was because there have been years, as in 2009, when the selection committee did not follow its stated but not mandatory policy about geography [regarding geographic proximity for the top seed]. They clearly violated it that year.
“But it wasn’t as clear [a violation] and it didn’t have the ramifications or generate the discussion [sending to UConn to Louisville would]. There is precedent for doing the bracket in a way that it is not necessarily strict to the geographic mileage code, so to speak.
“Now, since then  they have returned to the code. And mostly, it’s been discussed negatively, as if its not the right way to build a bracket, especially by keeping teams in the same bracket together.
“I don’t know that sending UConn to Lincoln would be accommodating the politics [for it]. I do believe it would be a better bracket with UConn there. I also don’t believe Louisville is the No. 8 overall seed [which would naturally pair it with UConn's expected No. 1]. I don’t think Louisville is the best [2nd seed] either. I think Louisville falls to No. 6 or No. 7 [overall].
“But the reason, I changed my mind goes back to 2008 when UConn and Rutgers were placed together. There was strong initial outrage about it. The coaches were upset. The media was upset. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. There was a lot of criticism. And in 2009, for whatever reason, the committee went away from the concept of grouping conference teams. Baylor and Oklahoma should have been together that year, based on geography, and it wasn’t done.
“There is a precedent set for reacting to outcry. I think the outcry this time is coming per-emptively from high profile teams with a combined four losses [Louisville is 30-4, three losses to UConn].
“In one way, the decision will be contradictory and inconsistent to what they have done in the last couple of years. But if they put UConn and Louisville together, I don’t think its the best common sense bracket.
“The difference now is, past decisions like this never required a No. 1 seed from possibly playing on another team’s floor in a regional. The decision to have regional hosts actually playing in that region is really silly to begin with. It has created this debate. It was a bad decision. I don’t understand why they [the NCAA] would do it, other than for financial reasons, a chance to up the money for one year in preparation for transitioning the tournament to a different look [in 2015].
“But for the good of the game, the public relations of the game, it was a bad and short-sighted decision. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if the old rules were in place. UConn would be going to Louisville and the Cardinals would be going likely to South Bend and we’d be done with it.
“I don’t think there is any chance Connecticut’s history of playing regionals on their home floor [in Hartford and Bridgeport] will come into the discussion, as if the committee would be interested in just seeing what would happen. The discussion will be about what the policies are and what’s the best for the bracket and how do we come to terms with that.
“I don’t believe they would avoid sending UConn to Louisville to avoid having teams play for a fourth time in a year. Some have used that rationale for why is shouldn’t happen.
“It would be about whether the No. 1 seed should be asked to play in a hostile environment to go to the Final Four? Is that good or bad for the tournament and how does it coexist with the policy and what’s been done in the past.