Monday, March 8, 2010
Oh, PleasePleasePlease Let Us Be #96!
So if the NCAA tournament goes from 64 teams to 96, is that good or bad?
For Joe Lunardi, I mean.
If you have made your sports niche one in which you start painstakingly predicting the 64 team bracket - IN OCTOBER! - then does having another 32 teams thrown in the mixing bowl make your job more, or less, important.
On the one hand, a 96 team bracket would be far more complex, and it would bring in at least double the bubble teams.
On the other hand, it wouldn't really matter.
Part of Lunardi's appeal, is that teams are desperate to get into the tourney, and thus they cling to his every change in the "Last 4 In" and "First 4 Out" lists.
Using the Sagarin Rankings - if only because you need some kind of "objective" tool to drill down to 96 teams for exploration purposes - I can report that as of Sunday the "First 4 Out" of the 96 team tourney would be (in order) Harvard, Weber State, Iona, and Nebraska.
Oh yeah, Nebraska is 14-17, and 0-10 this year against Top 25 teams.
You can say that a team like Nebraska would never be argued as a bubble team if we really were putting 96 teams into the bracket. You can say that. But you never know. There will almost certainly be a 14-17 team from a good conference that is upside down on conference record by at least 3 or 4 games, but DOES have a single signature win over a ranked team (probably on ESPN, too) which gets serious consideration.
Yes, this argument will happen. If anybody gives a crap enough to actually argue it.
The "Last 4 In" using Sunday's Sagarin's snapshot, would be Louisiana Tech, Missouri State, Providence, and Oklahoma.
Certainly a more handsome looking bunch as a snapshot, but it's not like we can't have a wonderful March Madness without them.
This also means, that swept up on the extra 32 teams will be....
Wofford, Wright State, Northeastern (and Northwestern for the first time ever!), Portland, Marshall and Illinois State.
Whoo hoo. Wow. Yeah, bracket madness. Get those pool sheets turned in by tomorrow folks.
The concept of a 96 team tournament is being pushed by ESPN and most Division 1 coaches. The reason the NCAA hasn't slammed the door in their face, is because they smell money.
I have a feeling this will end badly.
ESPN wants the extra games because they have 7 different platforms which need constant feeding of programming. ESPN doesn't care about ruining the perception, vibe, or enthusiasm of a 64 team NCAA tournament.
Which a 96 team tourney, would do. That's not even debatable.
They just want the games. Look at what ESPN's football appetite for stupid bowl games has done. It has fueled expansion on the BOTTOM end of the bowl schedule, involving more and more irrelevant teams, while the burning desire by fans to just get ONE more bowl game at the top end has been effectively thwarted.
The coaches have pushed for it, because they think (incorrectly) it will lead to added job security. Knowing several NCAA coaches personally, they chafe at fans, media, and school administrators that quickly cite how many years their team has "missed the tourney."
These coaches are correct when they complain that most critics have no real appreciation of how HARD it actually is to get into the Big Dance.
But making that easier, won't reduce the heat on their profession. It'll just move the 3-point line back a few feet, so to speak.
In a 96 team tourney universe, program critics will start citing how many years it has been since their coach has secured one of the coveted "first weekend bye's" as a Top-32 team.
Program critics will start citing how many years it has been since their team actually WON a tourney game.
And god forbid you are a heritage program (say, UConn) that loses to ol' Team 92 like say Wofford.
Unfortunately, the "logic" of an expanded tournament is seemingly driven by the mere fact that it is logistically do-able.
Yes, an extra 32 teams would fit as a sort of giant prelude tourney one weekend earlier in March. Then we would be back to 64 teams, just like before.
Come on, let's do it! We'll be rich!
What a dreadful idea.
I better enjoy the most perfect sporting event on earth with additional gusto this March. I've got a feeling it may be the last chance we get.