Let the madness begin.
That’s a sentence I’m sure most of us have probably heard about 1,000 times since the beginning of March. But, the only madness I’ve seen was on Selection Sunday.
Let the madness begin.
That’s a sentence I’m sure most of us have probably heard about 1,000 times since the beginning of March. But the only madness I’ve seen was on Selection Sunday.
For the first time in my life, at least that I can recall, it seems like the last four teams in (Virgina Commonwealth, Southern California, Alabama-Birmingham and Clemson) and the first four teams out (Colorado, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s and Alabama) were the polar opposite of what they should have been. A Colorado team that most analysts said wasn’t even “on the bubble” was left out and a VCU team, out of the Colonial Athletic Association (go ahead, try to name every team in that conference), that didn’t win its conference’s regular season or tournament championship is in.
There has been a lot of talk about the expanded tournament field. Most people seem to be under the impression that three more teams were invited for the sake of fairness or to make the tournament more entertaining for the fans. Unfortunately, neither of these are the case.
The reason for the expansion has nothing to do with the benefit or feelings of the players and fans and everything to do with money. As some of you may remember, the NCAA’s contract with CBS for the tournament was about to expire, pushing ESPN and CBS into a bidding war for the right to carry the national basketball tournament (March Madness). CBS won the broadcast rights and then it was discovered that they were losing money on the tournament. Their solution to this was to go to the NCAA and ask them to expand the tournament so they would have more slots to sell advertising. Whereas the bid made by CBS to televise the tournament is a lucrative one, and the NCAA obliged. (This also ties into why a few of the games are going to be featured on Tru TV right after “Most Shocking” and immediately followed by “Hardcore Pawn.”)
Why tell you this story?
Because I think I have the solution. Before I go any further, I should tell you that it involves expanding the field even further, which I know a lot of people are fervently against. But I ask that you approach the following proposal with an open mind.
The NCAA is on the right track with this so-called “First Four.” It will consist of four games, two being played between the last four teams in field of 68, and two games between low-major programs playing for the right to take on No. 1 seeds.
My proposal is that we take the “First Four” one step further. Instead of four games, you feature eight games, and as opposed to half of the games featuring the last four in, the eight games would be between automatic qualifiers from the lowest rated low-major conferences (i.e., Big Sky Conference, Patriot League, Sun Belt, etc.). These games would decide the tournament’s 15 and 16 seeds and those winners would move on and play the No. 1 and 2 seeds.
This would be better because I think that most people are in agreement that the idea of watching North Carolina 30-ball Long Island isn’t exactly the most exciting thing this side of watching paint dry. Also, it would set up more intriguing early matchups such as maybe a No. 4 Texas against a No. 13 Virginia Tech, or a No. 3 BYU versus No. 14 Saint Mary’s. After all, this is a championship tournament. Should we really be giving teams straight up bye weeks by kidding ourselves into thinking that St. Peters has a real chance to beat Purdue?
Everybody wins with this format. There are more games and more competitive games for the fans, more spots for teams that would ordinarily get snubbed, and more time slots for the TV stations to sell advertising and try to make money.
Jesse Cordova is a sports writer for the Neosho (Mo.) Daily?News. E-mail him at email@example.com.