Thursday, April 22, 2010

The NCAA Tournament: An Egalitarian Wonderland!

Of all of the NCAA's championship events, I think it is pretty safe to say the the men's basketball tournament is the best.  It is no more or less fair than all the other sports' tournaments; it is right on par with them.  But what takes it over the top is, of course, the television coverage and massive fan appeal (and you can have a chicken vs. egg argument between those two).  And today they made the tournament even better.  They expanded to 68 teams and this is a look at the arguments for and against the expansion and why the NCAA proved its superior administrative wisdom, once again.

"Why not 96 teams?  Erase the bubble, reward 31 more teams, make 31 more games-worth the money."
It's unecessary.  Who would those extra 31 teams be?  All the conferences already have automatic bids, so they'd all be at large schools.  Assuming that 15 or 16 of the auto-bid schools are not among the 96 best in the country, that still means that around the top 80 teams in the country would get invites.  Do we really need to see if the 76th best team deserves a national championship?  I am all for Cindarellas, but don't the schools that prove their worth all year deserve better than to have 60-70 sub-par teams taking shots at them?  And wouldn't there still be a bubble, but it would just include much crappier teams?  We'd be very likely to see entire conferences get bids, with multiple sub-.500 teams. 

"Then why expand at all?"
Expansion is necessary because every year there are 2-3 schools that likely deserved an invitation but were left out.  This will eliminate that 66th-team-bubble and allow all the qualified teams a chance to play.  Not to mention that it rewards three more teams and provides 3 more games-worth of revenue.

"Isn't that that answer the exact same as the question that you answered 'unnecessary' to for a 96 team expansion?"
No, that was 96.  This is 68.  They're different numbers.  Plus, the 80th best team in the country doesn't have a prayer and doesn't belong.

"I agree that the 80th best team doesn't belong.  But does the 50th really belong?  Likely a 13 or 14 seed, do they deserve a chance and are they genuine contenders?  A 12-seed, Missouri 2002, is the worst seed to even even make the Elite 8, so do we really need more 13+ calibre teams?"
Yes.  There is no downside to allowing more teams to compete, be they are top 10 schools or top 50 (but let's not get carried away and allow the top 80).  Plus, the Tournament has a long history of periodic expansion and of having additional play-in games.  Since 1950, this will be the 10th expansion, and the fourth tournament make-up that included play-in games. 

As you said earlier, 'I am all for Cindarellas, but don't the schools that prove their worth all year deserve better than to have 60-70 sub-par teams taking shots at them?'  Doesn't the same already ring true currently with 40-50 sub-par teams?  So why allow three more in?  Clearly it isn't for fairness but again, why didn't you just expand to 200 teams?
Generally all the university presidents, conference commissioners, and NCAA and television executives want to expand exponentially.  Fans don't.  And we feel it is important to listen to the fans.  Whether in includes 65, 68, or 96 teams, the tournament is fair, so why not keep the fans happy.  After all, they pay their hard earned money to keep us afloat.

So basically, even though no one watches the current play-in game, you can make more money by having 3 more.  And those three games don't affect the integrity of the title, so you feel that it is reasonable to cash in, give more kids a shot at the title, and appease your fanbase.  I think I am alright with that.
Good.  I'm glad we understand each other. 

In other words, it can't hurt anything so the 66th, 67th and 68th best basketball teams in the country deserve a chance to play for the title, but the 3rd best football team can kiss your ass.
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