Larch Madness

>> Monday

That title has nothing to do with this post, other than the fact that it's the only "March"-rhyming English word that I don't think has been paired with "Madness." But if you run a botanical garden, you're welcome for the promotion idea.

(The irony: Larches are unable to survive a March climate in any geographic region of the world. Moreover I just made that up.)

Anyway, I just got done watching Black Magic (part 2), and I'm now, more than ever, convinced that a) Tennessee will win the national title because of their McLendon-Jobe up-tempo style that revolutionized the '70s, which will somehow will translate to a six-game win streak in 2008; and b) college basketball is a modern-day form of slavery. (If that wasn't the core message of the documentary, I apologize. Us white people are bad at picking up on this stuff.)

Ok, that tangent also has nothing to do with this post, which to this point has no topic.

(Focus, Vin!)

Although I succumbed to the vice of complaining about NCAA tourney seeds last night, I'll be the first to admit it's a silly thing to give much thought. And it's even sillier to bicker about it. Read any college hoops message board from the last day, and you'll realize that there are very few objections regarding the seeding and/or inclusion/exclusion of teams that even approach a consensus--and even those are soundly refuted by some intriguing arguments to the contrary.

And two things that will always be true of human beings: We're never satisfied, and we're addicted to complaint.

But in reality, if the committee tried to placate every fanbase in college hoops, we'd end up with a bracket looking something like this:

(Not worth enlarging, really)

I think there are nine Final Four slots and five national championship participants. That's no way to live. That's not basketball. Noses would be bloodied, for sure.

But finally to the point of this post: You can count me among those who'd like to see a deeper tourney, little guys be damned. Ideally, this would mean no conference tournaments--or at least, no automatic bids for their winners (so why have them? Ok, gone entirely).

Knowing that this will never happen, I'm a big proponent of the other solution--four play-in games.

Why pick on two peons when you can pick on eight? Consider them the former 15s and 16s--a crop of teams, who throughout the history of the 64-team format have proven they deserve no better. Every once and again, a 15 proves they can beat--or at least hang with--a 2. A 16 has only done that twice that I know of--Princeton in '89 or '9o (forget which) and Holy Cross in '02.

With the bogus automatic bid system, two (roughly) of the 16s each year are teams that were middle-of-the-pack in their little-guy conference. These teams have never, and will never, have a chance against a #1. But the one or two "strong" 16s and the 15s at least have hope, according to history.

Of course, the biggest benefits to the idea (which obviously many others have promoted) are a) more inclusion of at-large teams with the ability to go a few rounds deep, and b) the 12-15 lines would all be more competitive.

More benefits (bullet-pointed because I'm tired) to the NCAA:
-Recongnizable major-conference names with large fanbases on the 13 line
-Ostensibly more upsets, as all seeds 12 and below would win more games
-Upsets = intrigue = $ for NCAA
-A full slate of games on Tuesday = more TV money
-I would like it
-I think it's a good idea
-More money for the NCAA in ways I haven't considered

Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of good objections to this idea that other people have articulated in forums where such ideas are frequently discussed, but I haven't bothered to find, read, or consider them because I'm egocentric, lazy, and illiterate. So please tell me all the ways I'm wrong.

In conclusion: Screw the little guys because I don't care about them, and give me more talent in the tourney.


Paul 8:06 PM  

This is a great idea that seems to be very popular this year. I'm not sure why, but I've heard several mainstream media types arguing for it. And why not? Instead of excluding Illinois State and Arizona State for Portland State (Portland isn't a state anyways!), put them all in.

Fine, keep the conference tourneys, but don't let these 16-seeded scrubs take up a decent first round game.

Gene Wojo actually had a decent post today about modifying the tournament, and expanding the bracket to 68 teams was one of his suggestions. I also like his "no team with conference records under .500" rule. It's so true! I don't care what Arizona's RPI is... they don't belong!

Vinnie 8:37 PM  

I read that Gene Woj article today (and most of those suggestions were either innocuous or dumb), but I did consider the sub-.500 thing more than any of them.

And I'm not sure I totally agree with it. Especially when it comes to smaller major conferences (10 teams or less, that is). When one of those conferences has an exceptionally great year (like the Pac 10 this year), I'd hate to de facto exclude teams that finish below .500 because history has shown that some of those teams are actually very good.

With the Pac 10, I can understand the argument because they all play home-home. If you're "good," you should be able to at least crack .500. Having said that, the Wildcats had some injuries and are loaded with talent.

Iain 3:41 PM  

The NCAA tournament does that same thing that the BCS, it makes a bunch of teams feel good; making the tournament/bowl game; and pissing off the majority of teams; low seeding, bad match-ups, getting snubed/getting screwed by the pools or BCS. Either way people complain about it, but they don't really want to really "fix it". The only real fix would end up with a pro-style playoffs system. Where teams winning their conference and a few high ranked teams make a playoff. This just pisses off pretty much everyone and still doesn't solve the problem that some teams will be snubbed. The current system may need some tweaking; additional "play-in games" and a +1 playoff system; this will still annoy people, but it might be an improvement.

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