Monday, March 18, 2013 | 11 a.m.
The brackets are out and the Las Vegas Sun sports team is here to discuss UNLV's draw as the 5-seed in San Jose, Calif., and a rematch with Cal.
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The basic process for sorting through the giant field of eligible Division I basketball teams and placing them in the NCAA Tournament is detailed under the heading “Procedures for Placing the Teams into the Bracket” on the NCAA’s official principles and procedures handout.
At the end of that list is a headline, “Additional Considerations” and listed at No. 1 is the following:
1. If possible, rematches of regular-season games should be avoided in the second and third rounds.
As you can tell, that’s a guideline, not a hard rule. But it’s a guideline the 10-person selection committee almost always abides by, making this year’s 5 UNLV vs. 12 Cal rematch all the more bizarre. The game is Thursday at 4:27 p.m. on truTV.
The Rebels and Golden Bears played in Berkeley, Calif., on Dec. 9. The Rebels (25-9) won 76-75 in the second game of a home-and-home series. UNLV had also defeated Cal (20-11) in the Thomas & Mack Center the previous season.
So why did the committee make an exception in this case? Former Rebel guard and current CBS analyst Greg Anthony asked committee Chair and Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski during the CBS broadcast of the Selection Show. Here’s a transcript:
I’m curious to know your thought process on having UNLV play Cal, a 5 versus 12, two teams that have already played each other. And not only that, they’re going to play in San Jose. I’m not sure of the rationale behind this in terms of the committee’s thinking.
As you know, Greg, we don’t make matchups. That one really evolved during the bracketing process, which we ran into some fairly significant logistical challenges making that First Four work this year. That game really came out of us trying to find a way to make that work. I can’t go into all that detail right now but trust me, we didn’t try to make that matchup. We’re aware of that rematch; we’re also aware of the geography. It was the best we could do at that moment in time.
As Bobinski explained earlier in the telecast and as you can see here, Cal was actually an 11 according to the overall seeding but had to be moved to 12 for logistical purposes. The Golden Bears’ reward for moving down a seed, apparently, is playing essentially a home game as HP Pavilion is about an hour drive from campus.
His explanation about the First Four involvement is likely related to not wanting to send one of those teams out west after playing a midweek game. However, it’s not clear why Cal couldn’t have traded spots with a team like Akron, the 12 seed in Auburn Hills, Mich. That would take away the possible home-game atmosphere for a double-digit seed.
If UNLV wins, this is all an afterthought, and the Rebels would have a significant geographic advantage on either 4 Syracuse or 13 Montana. If UNLV loses, though, it creates a mini-controversy where there probably didn’t need to be one, and just putting that game together gives the NCAA-has-it-out-for-UNLV conspiracy theorists some ammo.