Friday, March 16, 2012

Fixing the NCAA Men's Tournament

Like many Americans, I fully intend on spending the afternoon on my laptop working in front of a giant screen watching men's basketball while sumarizing reports.  Not that anyone in the office will complain - they'd have to be in the office to see what I'm doing.  Instead, they'll be down the street at the bar watching the tournament.  There are studies that try to quantify the amount of lost productivity in a dollar amount for the first two days of the tourney, but a safe number is to take the amount of profit generated for a day, subtract the productivity of the workforce for this day, and get the amount lost.  As the productivity of the day is probably around zero, the amount of lost productivity for the day is all of it.

One thing that bugs me is that while Thursday is the "First Round", with the expanded 68 team field, this is actually the Second Round.  Eight teams "made" the tournament, then they did not *quite* make the field.  They had to prove that they were worthy by playing in the least scenic town in America, Dayton, Ohio.  Why Dayton?  What did they do to deserve such a fate?  I know the President and the British Prime Minister were there, but Dayton?  And why do they have to "play-in", while other teams just get invited?  For teams like Iona, Brigham Young, California, and South Florida, this makes sense.  They were At-Large bids, having no right to be in the tournament apart from the decision of the selection committee.  However, for Lamar, Vermont, Mississippi Valley State, and Western Kentucky, this is rude.  Each won their conference tournament, yet the selection committee decided that their conference was not worthy of an automatic trip to the First Round, but other conference tournament winners do not have to prove themselves.

Therefore, behold my solution: The 97 team tournament.

No, seriously, 97.

Here's how this works:
All 30 Conference Tournament Winners advance to the Thursday-Friday round, along with the Ivy League champion.  If you are an At-Large team, you play-in on a Tuesday-Wednesday round.  The 31 Automatic Qualifiers will each face an At-Large team on the Thursday-Friday round, with 2 At-Large winners facing each other to have 32 games played in that round.  So, the 64 teams that play that round are 30 conference tournament winners, the Ivy League champ, and 33 teams that won a game on Tuesday or Wednesday.  So, you need 66 teams to play to produce the 33 teams.  This leads to 97 total teams.  You can keep seeding, or you can toss it.  It shouldn't matter.  You can even stack the tournament so that Kentucky plays a team like Cleveland State on Tuesday, then play Western Kentucky on Thursday.  All at-large teams are treated alike, as are the automatic qualifiers.  Whether or not the committee likes the SEC conference or doesn't like the America East conference is reflected in the teams invited, not in whether the conference tournament champ needs to play an extra game.  At least it seems fairer.

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