NCAA Basketball – 345-Team Madness
Call me a bit of a traditionalist. The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies in most cases. If something seems to be at its maximum potential, leave it be.
One such situation is the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Every year the NCAA Committee sits down and talks about expanding to include more teams. Since it’s creation in 1939 it has gone from 8 teams to 16, 20-ish, 32, 40, 48, 52, 53, 64, 65 and now 68 teams. 68 postseason teams out of 345 Division I schools equals out to less than 20% of all total teams. That’s not much compared to, say, the NBA, which sends 16 of its 30 teams (53.3%) to the postseason. Still, in this case, less is best.
The entire point of having a regular season is to sort out the riffraff from the real contenders, the teams that actually deserve to be there. When you increase the number of teams that qualify for the postseason, you take away the value of the regular season. While it generally isn’t difficult to find 68 deserving college basketball teams, imagine having to determine the top 128 teams nationwide. If the tournament expanded to 128 teams like was rumored last summer, imagine people struggling to fill out their brackets, the one activity that makes March Madness so exciting.
No offense to the teams who had rough seasons, but if you struggled in your regular season, you don’t deserve to even make eye contact with the postseason. Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight has gone on record saying that, although it would never happen, the tournament should cut back to 32 teams. To me, 64 teams seem to be a good fit and 68 teams with play-in games is tolerable. Any more teams than that, and why even play a regular season? Why not just put all 345 Division I teams into a massive tournament and give them all a chance at the championship?
If expansion is never discussed again, then disregard the rest of this. But this summer when the NCAA starts talking about 96 or 128 team tournaments, then read on.
Based solely on RPI, the most common NCAA measure of team quality, the 128th ranked team in the country is South Carolina with a record of 14-15. Again, no offense to USC but if that team makes the 128-team tournament, it officially has become too watered down. We’d have to switch over to my all-inclusive 345-team tournament. Seeding would be based on the aforementioned RPI ranking, and the tournament would take the place of the entire regular season and all conference tournaments. The top half of the teams would get first round byes and the bottom half would fill out the rest. I’m sure ESPN could come up with a formula to seed next year’s tournament based on the results of this year’s.
Here it the bracket,
Everyone gets participation medals like in middle school and sportsmanship is at an all-time high. If you think of clever “Sweet Sixteen”-like names for the rounds of 32, 64, 128 and 256, please share.