By an odd twist of scheduling fate, Brigham Young and Texas A&M are meeting in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
I had thought that there was a specific rule in the seeding process that does not allow teams that faced each other in the last two NCAA Tournaments to meet again in the first round. It turns out I was wrong in my interpretation. The specific statement in the NCAA's Division I Men's Basketball Championship Principles and Procedures for Establishing the Bracket (deep breath) is:
2. If possible, rematches of previous years’ tournament games should be avoided in the first and second rounds.
That clause is listed under "additional consderations," which come after all of the S-Curve and geography rules. It's also listed after the clause about avoiding regular-season rematches, which is the first additional consideration.
In other words, the goal of keeping teams apart that have met in recent Tournaments seems to be pretty far down the priority list. Which means that if you can't get around it, you can't get around it. And when one of the teams under discussion is Brigham Young, the chances of not being able to get around it increase rather dramatically.
You may know this already, but because BYU is a Mormon institution, it refuses to play on Sundays. The NCAA accepts this, and tries very hard to keep the Cougars out of Friday-Sunday pods. It has succeeded every year since 2003, when BYU was accidentally placed in a Friday-Sunday regional (though it was in a Thursday-Saturday subregional). Luckily for the selection committee, the Cougars didn't make it that far.
Anyway, let's bring this thing to the present. Because the Selection Committee lays out the S-Curve first, it knew the Cougars' seed and could place them accordingly. There are two early-round sites with games on Thursday and Saturday, Philadelphia and Greensboro. But because the Greensboro games are part of the South region, which will play a Friday-Sunday regional in Memphis, BYU could not play there.
So the Cougars ended up in Philadelphia. But why are they playing Texas A&M? The Aggies played Louisiana State, which is in the 8-9 game in Greensboro, during the regular season. The regular-season rematch clause took priority over the NCAA Tournament rematch clause.
Could there have been Butler vs. Texas A&M in Greensboro and LSU vs. BYU in Philadelphia? From what I can tell, that would have been the only other option. But perhaps in the end, the committee just decided to go with the rematch and let that be a talking point.
So it was this morning at the Wachovia Center.
"It kind of gives you a head start knowing some of the players real well from last year," Aggies guard Donald Sloan said. "It's a good situation, I guess you could say - no surprises."
Sloan's backcourt parnet Derrick Roland admitted that the team was "pretty surprised."
"They called BYU first, then we saw our name pop up," Roland said. "We were all like, 'Again?'"
A&M coach Mark Turgeon is coaching in his third NCAA Tournament in the last four years, but he isn't taking anything for granted.
"A month ago we didn't know if we were going to be a part of this tournament," he said. Turgeon called facing BYU "kind of strange, but it's made scouting just a little bit easier."
Turgeon has coached at an interesting array of schools, at least geographically: Oregon and Kansas as an assistant, and Jacksonville (Ala.) State, Wichita State and A&M. It was with the Shockers that Turgeon first found a national stage, reachng the Sweet 16 in 2006 before losing to Final Four-bound George Mason.
He also served as an assistant to Larry Brown with the 76ers for the 1997-98 season, believe it or not, and was asked about that experience by reporters this morning. I had no idea about that, to be honest.
Since this post is getting pretty long, I'll give you Turgeon's view of Philadelphia fans in audio form. Click on the player below to listen to his exchange with reporters.
Could Philly fans really root for a Texas team? We'll find out tomorrow.