The NCAA Tournament selection committee rewards the nation’s top teams in two ways: high seeds and geographic priority.
The latter perk covers the top 16 overall seeds. Because first- and second-round games will be played at eight sites around the country — with two “pods” of four teams competing at each location — the selection committee aims to place the best 16 programs closest to home.
For Michigan and Michigan State, that would mean beginning their NCAA Tournament at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. And after the Wolverines’ four-wins-in-four-days run to their second straight Big Ten Tournament title, there’s a possibility both programs will play at the home of the Detroit Pistons.
But there are other top teams close to Detroit as well. Of the top 16 projected seeds, Xavier, Purdue and Cincinnati also are located closer to Little Caesars Arena than to other sites. So, for Michigan State or Michigan — or both — to play in Detroit, they likely would have to finish seeded above those other two teams.
As of now, that’s not the case. Xavier, the outright Big East regular-season champion, is a projected No. 1 seed, while American Athletic champion Cincinnati sits on the No. 2-seed line. Purdue also is a projected No. 2 seed, according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. Therefore, that puts Michigan State as a No. 3 seed playing in Nashville, Tenn., and Michigan as a No. 4 seed competing in Wichita, Kan., in Lunardi’s latest bracket.
But the selection committee sometimes will send a team to a different location if it is not much farther than the closest site. In that case, Xavier and Cincinnati realistically could be sent to Nashville or Pittsburgh, as well.
This is somewhat how CBS Sports Bracketologist Jerry Palm sees the bracket unfolding. He has Xavier as a No. 1 seed playing in Nashville. That makes room for Cincinnati and Michigan State to play in Detroit.
Simply put, the odds Michigan State and Michigan both end up in Detroit are slim. But there is a chance.
So, Wolverines and Spartans fans should be rooting against Xavier and Cincinnati in their respective tournaments this week. Their cost of NCAA Tournament travel likely will depend on it.