Your March Madness Bracket’s Gonna Look Different This Year, ‘Cause The NCAA Finally Got Smart With Seeding

The March Madness bracket is getting a facelift prior to this year's NCAA Tournament

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It may only be mid-January, but don’t be fooled, because March Madness isn’t that far away, guys. Like, six weeks from now we’ll be wrapping up conference tournaments and figuring out what seeding may look like for the 2021 NCAA Tournament — which, without a doubt, is the most exciting sporting event of the year.

While COVID ripped our hearts from our chests in 2020 by forcing the NCAA to cancel March Madness, this year’s tournament is set to be played all around the Indianapolis area to help things run smoothly. Games may look a little different, but the drama is sure to still be on the highest level.

Something else that’s going to look different? Seeding. That’s because the NCAA announced a new system that totally eliminates the idea of travel since the entire NCAA Tournament will be played around Indy this year. In the past, that wasn’t necessarily the case, as the selection committee tried to keep teams closest to their campus as possible to limit long trips and high costs. Not this year, though.

Take a look at how this new S-curve seeding will work in this year’s tourney.


The method, commonly referred to as the S-curve, involves the same first step the committee would normally use, which entails putting the top four teams on the seed list in the four separate regions. From there, however, things will be different in 2021. The overall No. 5 seed will be placed in the same region as the overall No. 4. The overall No. 6 will be placed with the overall No. 3. The overall No. 7 seed will be paired with the overall No. 2, and the overall No. 8 will be in the same region as the top-seeded team. The next step would be to place the third-seeded teams, with the overall No. 9 seed joining the Nos. 1 and 8 seeds in one region, the No. 10 seed being placed with the Nos. 2 and 7 seeds, the No. 11 seed going to the same region as the Nos. 3 and 6 seeds, and the No. 12 seed joining the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds. The first quadrant of tournament teams is completed by placing the fourth-seeded teams in each region as follows: the overall No. 13 with Nos. 4, 5 and 12; No. 14 with Nos. 3, 6 and 11; No. 15 with Nos. 2, 7 and 10; and No. 16 with Nos. 1, 8 and 9. The process repeats itself for teams seeded 5-16, using the overall seed list to place teams in their respective regions.

If you’re anything like me, that’s probably a little bit confusing. Numbers, man. Don’t worry, though, because the very smart people over at the NCAA further broke things down so dummies like you and I can fully understand how this new seeding system will for for March Madness this year.

The committee’s intent will be to stay true to the S-curve for placing teams on the bracket, though the following existing principles will still be applied accordingly:

  • Each of the top four teams selected from a conference shall be placed in different regions if they are seeded on the first four lines.
  • Teams from the same conference shall not meet before the regional final if they played each other three or more times during the regular season, to include the conference tournament.
  • Teams from the same conference shall not meet before the regional semifinals if they played each other twice during the regular season, to include the conference tournament.
  • Teams from the same conference may play each other as early as the second round if they played no more than once during the regular season, to include the conference tournament.
  • If possible, rematches of nonconference regular-season games should be avoided in the First Four and first round.

In terms of sheer fan interest, this is honestly one of the smarter choices the NCAA has made about the tourney. Sure, everybody and their mother will tune into March Madness, but avoiding games involving teams from the same conference is clutch. So, too, is avoiding rematches of teams who have already played one another until later in the tournament.

It’s rare to see the NCAA make such a proactive decision like this, so kudos to them for throwing a cool, new mix into the 2021 NCAA Tournament. It’s sure to spice things up a little bit and deliver some unique matchups that fans often don’t get a chance to see. Let’s go!