In relatively unique fashion, the 2017 version of the NCAA Tournament could set up that no intra-conference matchups occur. In fact, if all of the seeds hold, it would 100% indeed be avoided.
While it’s something that doesn’t happen very often, it’s usually difficult to steer clear of. Think about the amounts of teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 who make the tournament every year. Just taking this year into account, the Pac-12 and Big Ten combined for 17 entrants – over a quarter of the tournament field. Throw in six from the ACC and four from the SEC and Big 12 (with three hosting) and it’s easy to see how somewhere along the road teams from the same conference could meet.
For instance, last year Penn State and Nebraska met in the Sweet 16, as did Washington-Arizona and Wisconsin-Ohio State. If we were basing things off if things set up with the higher seeds winning though like we are with this year, things would be different.
For one, Arizona-Washington and Wisconsin-Ohio State wouldn’t count since it took Wildcats/Buckeyes upsets to set it up. Since it would only be based on the collision course of higher seeds winning, last year’s tournament would have been prepared for four intra-conference meetings with Nebraska-Penn State (which did happen) and the three that didn’t with Kansas and Texas in the Elite Eight, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the final four and the winner of that vs. Nebraska in the championship.
Based on this year’s seedings, none of those would be planned out. It could still happen if for instance Utah made their way to the Elite Eight vs. Stanford, or Iowa State did so against Texas. USC could also meet UCLA if the top two seeds in that region went down. But overall there are less opportunities for those intra-conference meetings this year with none expected to occur.
Maybe it’s a mark of the balance we are seeing from different conferences this year. Maybe it’s a testament to the NCAA Tournament committee finding balance in the bracket. Maybe it’s just coincidence. Regardless of what it is, it’s a good thing for the tournament because it provides an opportunity for many different teams to prove themselves against new competition as we weed our way down to a National Champion.