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Dude, where's my team?

Published March 14, 2004

The NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket will look a bit different and perhaps appear confusing.

Gone will be the customary East, South, Midwest and West Region designations. Instead, you'll see East Rutherford, N.J., Atlanta, St. Louis and Phoenix.

Huh? Well, the NCAA realized the old way was inaccurate and misleading. For example, of the 16 teams in last year's East Region, only seven (Wake Forest, Syracuse, Saint Joseph's, North Carolina State, Penn, Manhattan and South Carolina State) were from what map-makers would call the East. To make matters worse, last year's East teams started out in Boston, Tampa, Birmingham, Ala., and Oklahoma City.

The latter two are not in the East.

The NCAA made another change last June that will affect the brackets. In the past, the NCAA predetermined how the regions would matchup in the Final Four before team selection, seeding and bracketing. That has, from time to time, caused an uproar and demands for breseeding before the semifinals.

In 1996, No. 1 seeds UMass and Kentucky, the East and Midwest Region champs respectively, and the undisputed top two teams in the nation, met in the semifinals instead of the championship game that most saw as more fitting and exciting.

Last year, Kentucky and Arizona, the No. 1 seeds in the Midwest and West and the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the AP poll, were set for a Final Four semifinal collision. (Both lost in their region final.)

After the selection committee seeds the field, the four No. 1 teams will be geographically placed by city so that the No. 1 would meet the No. 4 in the semifinals and the No. 2 would play the No. 3.

"We have made some changes that I think will be beneficial," men's basketball committee chairman Bob Bowlsby said.

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