In addition to announcing Final Four sites through 2011 last week, the men's basketball committee also made two significant changes in the look of the NCAA Tournament men's bracket starting in 2004.
When the bracket is released on Selection Sunday, which is March 14 next season, the committee will determine the Final Four semifinal pairings when it sets the bracket. In years past, the semifinal matchups of regional winners (East vs. West, South vs. Midwest, etc.) were predetermined and rotated each year.
"The committee's main charge has been to competitively balance the bracket," Bill Hancock, NCAA consultant to the Division One men's basketball championship, said Monday. "But the Final Four semifinal matchups really weren't balanced. This addresses that."
Basically, the tournament's top two No. 1 seeds will be placed in opposite brackets. The fourth-best No. 1 seed will be placed in the regional opposite the overall No. 1 seed with the third-best No. 1 seed placed with the other No. 1 seed.
The committee will do away with the directional names for the four regions on the bracket. Instead, each of the four regions will be referred to by the host city's name. In 2004, the regionals will be East Rutherford (formerly East), Atlanta (South), St. Louis (Midwest) and Phoenix (West).
The 2-year-old pod system, which is designed to keep teams closer to home on the NCAA Tournament's first weekend, has blurred the directional nature of the regionals' sites.