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These Things Don't Just Happen

A correspondent complains to Grant Wahl about the NCAA seeding process:

One change that needs to be addressed is adjusting the announcement of the bracket, or speeding up the scheduling of the conference tournament championship games. Over the last couple of years, an argument can be made that the Big 12 tourney champ played their way into a No. 1 seed, but because that game finishes so close to the bracket show the team is already slotted as a No. 2 or a No. 3. All teams should have the option to play their way in, and play their way up (or down) accordingly.

I hate to be blunt, but it's not like "Thou Shalt Start the Big 12 Championship at Four P.M. Eastern" was given on a tablet to Moses or anything. The ACC championship used to alternate between starting at 1 pm and 4 pm. Then 1989 happened.

Duke and UNC came into the ACC tournament as the second and fourth seeds respectively, with identical 9-5 conference records. The Heels were 24-7 overall and the Blue Devils 22-6. They had split their regular season meetings and were consensus #2 seeds in the NCAA tournament by the time they met in the ACC championship game. (N.C. State, the top seed had lost to eighth seeded Maryland, the first time the top seed had ever lost in the opening round.) With the East Regional games being played in Greensboro,  it was a given that the winner of the champion game would get to stay in-state, while the loser went elsewhere.

It was an ugly championship game, with 26 turnovers for the Heels and an 0-8 half of shooting, but Steve Bucknall had a great couple of minutes pushing the Heels to a 77-74 win and a sure trip to Greensboro.

But the game had started at four, and UNC's poor first half meant that the selection committe had already decided to put the Blue Devils in the East. They had a comfotable road to the Final Four, playing 7th seed West Virginia, 11th seed Minnesota, and top seeded Georgetown before falling to Seton Hall in the Final Four. UNC had two rounds in Atlanta before losing to eventual national champion Michigan in the decidedly unfriendly confines of Rupp Arena in Lexington.

The ACC Championship has been played at one o'clock every year since. It's written in their television contract.

If the Big 12 thinks being played at four hurts their conference's seedings, they don't have to play the game then. But they do, because they get more money to do so. I'm not going to wste that much sympathy on the conference for making that decision.