Home NCAA Tournament Anchoring Bias and the Regional Alignment

Anchoring Bias and the Regional Alignment


Anchoring is one form of cognitive bias in which the first piece of information offered is given more weight than it deserves. Examples in everyday life include the first offer in a negotiation or when an item is listed for sale at a certain price. In a negotiation, that first amount offered tends to “anchor” the subsequent offers around that point, even if the number does not adequately reflect the value of the transaction. Regarding item prices, seeing that an item is “50% off” can cause the shopper to believe that he or she is getting a great deal because the anchor price is twice as high as the current price, even if the original price has no connection to the item’s actual value.

The current regional alignment, and subsequent attempts to change it, have demonstrated an anchoring bias. The current alignment, while incredibly flawed, has been treated as if it has value simply because it came first. Anytime someone refers to “moving” a team from one region to another, that gives a bit more legitimacy to a system that is inherently unfair. The current alignment is either the result of a mistake or bias, depending on your point of view, and it ought not be treated as worthwhile just because it was the first regional alignment used.

In order for the wrestling and championships committees to create and approve a fair system of six regions, they need to throw away the current system and start from scratch. Any effort that starts with the current alignment as a reference will propagate its unfairness into the next alignment. Throw the old system away, come up with a fair and reasonable set of guidelines for forming regions, and make sure that there is as much transparency as possible. As we head into yet another season with the same regional alignment as the past four, it is worth noting what the Championships Committee decided was appropriate for the 2016-2017 season.

  1. One region has 11 teams while others have 19, even though teams have moved in the past to keep regions at 18 or less.
  2. King’s College and Wilkes University are in different regions. The competition sites for the two schools are less than one mile apart.
  3. If you draw a contiguous line around the West Region, it looks like this:

Regional Alignment – How We Got Here
Ice Hour Episodes 12 | 13 – both with discussion of regional alignment
2016-2017 Regional Alignment as determined by the NCAA Championships Committee
d3wrestle.com Regional Alignment Proposal

Four Year Totals 2013-2016 (since the regional system was in place)

Region All-Americans % of total AA Team Points % of total Points
Central 67 20.94 895 20.96
Midwest 65 20.31 888 20.80
Mideast 56 17.5 727.5 17.04
East 52 16.25 684 16.02
Northeast 49 15.31 612 14.33
West 31 9.69 463 10.84


  1. here are 2 pieces – a) two college coaches who are on one of the committees put together a proposal and presented it to JP Williams – the proposal consisted of equal representation based on GEOGRAPHY across all 6 regions – it also took into account how far each time would have to travel and ensured the travel distance would be under 300 miles for each team – and it also showed how the regions and teams would save money with this proposal – at a later meeting these coaches were informed this proposal was rejected without their knowledge despite being on the committee….why would that happen? 2. One of these coaches also contacted the AD at a western region school who is believed to be behind the blockage of change…his response to this coach was along the lines “it’s not my problem teams are being added out east….”

  2. First, I want to say that I agree in your assessment that there is unfair bias evident in the region allotment. There is something that needs to be done (disclaimer: I am a former athlete of what is now the West Regional, before the ‘regionalization’). Biases like this not only make the championship event unfair, but it stifles healthy competition.

    That aside, I do have an issue with one of your talking points. In point #2 above, you use the fact that there are two nearby schools in different regions as evidence of bias. The distance alone is not enough of an argument of that point. There is still a chance (mathematical & theoretical) that if regions were evenly distributed, that the schools could be in different regions.

    This may sound like splitting hairs, but it is important. Again, I am a proponent to balancing regions and eliminating biases. I want your arguments to be as strong as possible, so when there is opportunity to change, the important facts aren’t lost in the one less strong point.

    I do enjoy reading your analyses, though. They are well thought out, and rooted in facts and numbers.


  3. Stalling tactics at its finest! How long does it take to get representation for each region in place?? It’s a day of voting and an emergency conference call to vote on what was approved by the majority of the DIII coaches in Florida and through all these surveys. The fact that nothing is being done when the committee has always come together for a conference call to “adjust” the regions for the addition of new programs has always been the PROCESS! Same teams send 10 guys every year to NCAA. At some point it’s more than just what happens on the mat.

  4. The article is clearly bias to emphasize the authors agenda but that fact aside people are missing a huge point in both the articles and the comments. Everyone talks about what region teams should be in or the fairness of having equal teams in each. While I agree that teams should be in certain regionals based on location. There are many purposes for this including expenses and travel. Although this is obviously the hot topic that people are talking about I think this is probably the least important in factoring “fairness” as people keep mentioning. Equaling out the number of teams in each region doesn’t make the regionals “fair”. There also needs to be a point system similar to D1 that measures the strength of each weight and provides for more or less bids to the national tournament. Example last year Midwest region at 141 had 5 guys that were ranked in Top 10 all year yet that weight gets only 3 bids. On the flip often times there are weight classes in which there is only one kid that has a quality season and is deserving of a trip to nationals but that weight at that regional also gets 3 bids and two kids with possibly losing records get a trip to nationals while two kids in top 10 are sitting in the stands. Their season ended because there is no value to their entire seasons body of work. While I agree the regionals should have equal teams there also needs to be something in place that values results throughout the season.

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