The NCAA is turning the men’s basketball tournament into a month-long reality TV show.
For the first time, the NCAA men’s basketball selection committee will tease hoops fans in February by unveiling a real-time look at what could be the 68-team tournament’s top 16 seeds, a move some say could be added—and unwanted—pressure for top teams.
Already, the NCAA airs a lengthy TV selection program in March.
The early unveiling will air at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 11 on CBS, about a month before Selection Sunday on March 12. The NCAA plans to use the program to detail how the first four seeds in each region are stacking up at that point in the season.
Of course as team’s fortunes rise and fall throughout the rest February and into March, those seeds could—and almost certainly will—change.
“We are excited about giving the fans a glimpse to what the men's basketball committee is thinking at this point of the season, and creating a buzz as we look towards Selection Sunday,” Mark Hollis, NCAA men’s basketball chairman, said in a statement. “There's potential for quite a bit of movement until we do it for real March 12, but this early peek will give everyone insight as to where the committee stands as we hit the stretch run of the regular season.”
The reason the show will focus on the top 16 seeds, NCAA officials said, is because the national champion often comes from those teams. Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only Villanova, with a No. 8 seed in 1985; Kansas, a No. 6 seed in 1988; and Connecticut, a seventh seed in 2014 have won a national title without being a top-four seed.
The NCAA has spent a fair bit of time recently looking for ways to enhance and increase publicity for the men’s postseason basketball tournament, by far its biggest money maker.
On Jan. 20, NCAA executives met with a group of top basketball statistics and analytics gurus to see if they could improve the current method of selecting and seeding teams for the tournament.
The current selection system, which now relies heavily on an often-criticized team-rating system called the RPI—Rating Percentage Index—could be changed as early as next season, NCAA officials said.