Regionalization On Hold
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
"Regionalization," or the NCAA's cost-cutting restrictions on placement of teams in the NCAA tournament bracket, has been put on hold for one year, according to Steve Cady, chair of the Men's Division I Ice Hockey Committee and associate athletic director at Miami.
Regionalization threatened to cause havoc with the bracket this year, as CHN previously examined in this article here.
The Championships/Sports Management Cabinet is voting this week on whether to make regionalization of brackets something that is mandated across most NCAA sports. If they do, Cady said it wouldn't take hold until next year.
But even then, because of the cooperation the committee received on delaying it until next year, Cady is optimistic that the more drastic regionalization proposals will not be passed, and instead hockey will be allowed its compromise proposal.
"I feel very good they did listen to us," Cady said. "I think we can make significant improvements to cut costs, and still keep the integrity alive with such a small bracket."
Under the original NCAA plan, all 16 teams would be placed in the closest geographic region possible, regardless of other factors (other than avoiding first-round same-conference matchups, which is still OK to avoid according to the legislation).
In the compromise plan, the hockey committee would still limit travel by placing teams in close geographic regions, but the four seeding "bands" would be allowed to remain intact. In other words, teams could be shuffled within the bands, but not otherwise.
Technically, this is already the procedure outlined in the committee's manual. However, in practice, the committee has typically taken this a step further, attempting to align the bracket in a strict 1-6, 2-15, 3-14, 4-13, etc... manner, regardless of geography.
"They've been very good, the NCAA, at this point," Cady said. "There nothing at this juncture but optimism."
Regionalization is being implemented in phases, and the other two phases are already in place. The only effect on the men's ice hockey bracket is that teams must travel by bus if the trip will be 400 miles or less, instead of 350 miles as it was in the past.
The only other change to this year's bracket from last is that a team must have a .500 record or better to qualify. The "rule" was implemented last summer by the committee, in the aftermath of Wisconsin qualifying with an at-large bid despite being sub-.500.