Tuesday October 3, 2023

No. 1 Seed Knockouts Raise Questions Over NCAA Tournament Structures

  • This week, four 1-seeds went down in the early rounds of men’s and women’s March Madness.
  • Women’s early-round games are played on the home courts of top seeds, making upsets more difficult than they are during men’s early rounds.
Mar 17, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Fairleigh Dickinson Knights guard Heru Bligen (3) makes a layup in front of Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at Nationwide Arena.
Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch
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During the first week of March Madness, four men’s and women’s top seeds were knocked out — the Purdue and Kansas men’s teams and the Stanford and Indiana women’s team.

Purdue was only the second men’s 1-seed in history to lose to a 16-seed. On the women’s side, Ole Miss and Miami made history, too — a women’s NCAA tournament hasn’t seen multiple 1-seeds lose before the Sweet 16 since 1998.

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One-seed upsets on the women’s side are likely even more surprising than they are on the men’s — because of differences in the tournament setups. The men’s Rounds of 64 and 32 are played at neutral sites, but the women’s games are played at the home courts of the top 16 seeds. Miami and Ole Miss both upset their opponents on the road.

The structure has become a recent subject of debate.

Home-court rounds help the women’s tournament cut down on costs and ensure that games are played in places where fans are passionate about the women’s game, but women’s fans have begun to wonder whether a home-court advantage is unfair in the tournament. 

That’s part of why the NCAA decided to switch the Sweet 16 rounds from four sites to two this year: In addition to an improved atmosphere, the regionals are supposed to provide a more neutral environment (even though one of this year’s sites will be South Carolina, home state as the reigning champion Gamecocks).

Meanwhile, men’s fans have wondered whether on-campus games could be more electric. The 12-team College Football Playoff will test-drive the concept of early-round campus games in 2024.

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