Even before Kentucky received an NCAA Tournament draw perceived by John Calipari and many Wildcats fans to be more difficult than others with a similar seed, there was ample call for a tourney bracket that followed a straight “S-curve.”
It’s something that Calipari has advocated for in the past, the idea being to eliminate geographic considerations and lay out a bracket based solely on where each team is ranked coming into the tournament.
Under such a format, the region with the No. 1 overall seed would also include the lowest-ranked No. 2 seed, the “best” No. 3 seed and the “worst” No. 4 seed, with region assignments snaking their way down each seed line of the bracket in alternating directions.
Interestingly, the NCAA Selection Committee did this for the first two lines of the bracket — the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds — Sunday, using an S-curve instead of straight geography to place the first eight teams in the bracket.
“The committee used the S-curve on the first two lines after having repeated trouble with competitive balance on the top four lines,” NCAA spokesman David Worlock said after the brackets were revealed. “(The committee) returned to using geography and conference affiliation for lines 3 and 4.”
The Selection Committee tries to balance the top 4 seeds in each region so that no region is considerably tougher or easier than the others. The decision to go to the S-curve for the top two seed lines Sunday is how North Carolina — the top-ranked 2 seed in the tournament — ended up in the West Region, the farthest away from Chapel Hill.
So, what if the Selection Committee just used a straight S-curve — completely taking out exceptions that limit conference matchups early in the tournament — and seeded this year’s bracket that way?
Here’s what it would have looked like (with a complete bracket at the bottom of the story):
No. 1 overall seed Virginia would go to the region being played in Atlanta.
Arizona, as the lowest-ranked No. 4 seed, and UK, as the highest-ranked No. 5 seed would also be in the Atlanta region. And that’s exactly how it played out in the actual bracket.
So, even using the S-curve, UK’s most likely path to the Elite Eight would’ve still gone though Arizona and Virginia, with Cincinnati as the No. 2 seed (also what happened in the actual bracket) and Michigan State as the No. 3 seed in the South.
The Wildcats’ first-round opponent in the S-curve scenario would have been fourth-ranked No. 12 seed Murray State, the only other team in the field from the state of Kentucky.
Instead, the Cats will be playing Davidson in the first round Thursday night.
Villanova — the second-ranked No. 1 seed — would have still ended up in the Boston regional, with Purdue as the No. 2 seed, Tennessee as the No. 3 seed and Gonzaga as the No. 4 seed.
It would have been Kansas — the third-ranked No. 1 seed — in the Omaha regional along with Duke as the No. 2 seed, Michigan as the No. 3 seed and Wichita State as the No. 4 seed.
Xavier — the last-ranked No. 1 seed — would’ve been paired with No. 2 seed North Carolina, No. 3 seed Texas Tech and No. 4 seed Ohio State.
The 2018 NCAA Tournament, according to the S-curve
16 Tex So./NC Cent.
8 Virginia Tech
8 Seton Hall
9 Kansas State
5 West Virgina
5 Ohio State
12 Murray State
12 S Dakota State
12 New Mex St
4 Wichita St
11 UCLA/St. Bon
11 Ariz St/Syracuse
11 San Diego St
3 Michigan State
3 Texas Tech
14 SF Austin
14 Wright State
7 Texas A&M
7 Rhode Island
10 Florida State
10 NC State
2 North Carolina
15 Georgia State