FanPost

Fixing the NCAA Basketball Tournament

First, let me add the caveat that I'm not really all that angry that CU didn't get selected. Partially that's due to exhaustion (900 miles driven Saturday and Sunday), but mostly it's because I didn't like the field expanded to 68 in the first place, and we did have some pretty terrible losses, a weak schedule, and a questionable showing away from Boulder. Annoyed and disappointed for sure, but not the fire and brimstone anger. Mostly I'm annoyed with the process, and with some unquestionably and brazenly corrupt players at the forefront (seriously, Gene Smith, nothing's more corrupt than politics, and even those assholes remove people who get caught in scandals from leadership positions).

That being said- let's fix this thing! Someone mentioned on my twitter machine that we should just set the field like the World Cup. The more I think about it, the more I kind of love the idea. There are several ways you can do this. Working backwards, the knockout rounds would revert to the classic 64 team tournament. 4 team pools would play round robin and feed the 64 team knockout rounds, with 32 total 4 team pools (top 2 advancing). That's 128 teams (there are currently 346 Division 1 teams). 

To get from 346 to 128, you give each conference's regular season champ and runner up an automatic berth (conference tournaments are eliminated, with pool play replacing the current tournaments). There are 32 D1 conferences, so each champ gets their own pool, and the runners up are picked randomly, but with a safety rule that says that no runner up can be in the pool with their conference partner. So that's the first 64 teams. The final 64 could be chosen in several ways. First, you could just have a committee choose the next 64 most deserving teams, but that's still too much drama and power thrust into a room of boring old white guys, so that will not stand here. My thought is:

Set up almost a second conference, set by region, with 11 or 12 teams each. So Colorado would be in the Pac 12, but also in a regional group with, say, CSU, Air Force, Wyoming, Boise State, Utah State, BYU, Utah, Northern Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska... something like that, but with controls in place so that there wasn't too much overlap between regular conferences and regional qualifying pools. Put Ucla and USC with San Diego State, Long Beach State, Pepperdine... Texas, TCU, UTEP... you get the idea. There's between 29 and 32 of those. Let's say 32 for simplicity's sake. And these regions get adjusted annually or biannually to accommodate for conference changes and power shifts. Give the winner of each an auto berth. So now we're at 96 teams out of 128. With an 18 game conference schedule, we're at 29 or 30 games per season. There are several preseason and holiday tournaments. I'm not going to look it up, so in this world of Philtopia, there will be 10 . All of those winners get automatic berths into the field of 128, and schools small and large can still schedule a few true out of conference and out of regional games, either as pay for play games or for true competition (or both, if it's a neutral site game like Duke- St. John's at MSG or some such). That leaves us with 22 wild card spots, but not really. 

What happens if (inevitably) a team like Kansas wins their conference, wins their region, and wins the preseason NIT? Well, the 2nd place team in the region, and the 3rd place team in the conference would get an auto berth (since the conference runner up already gets a berth). This means that teams get a potential benefit for playing in tough conferences/ regions, since there will be a good amount of overlap for the few true power schools.

After all of that, you've got maybe 10-15 true wild card spots, which would be selected by a panel of administrators/ former players/ coaches/ whatevers, with emphasis on recent history to account for suddenly hot teams. So around 10% would be discretionary. Now we're at 128 teams, with 64 being already set in their pools. The 32 regional qualifiers would then be assigned randomly to pools, with controls to account for no conference/ regional overlap (if possible). The final 32 teams would then be randomly placed in pools, with no control in place. Those round robin pools play 3 games in 3 days and the top 2 are seeded by the same selection committee (based on the entire body of work) and placed into the knockout bracket. In case of ties, go with head to head results, then total margin of victory.

What does this do? Well, first and foremost- it provides a lot more legitimacy to the process. Win and you're in, but you can do that in 3 different ways, and, since major conference schools would be in regional pools with mid-majors, you can't argue something like "San Diego State would never survive the Pac 12 schedule" or whatever. Or you can just get hot for a few days in December and win a weak tournament in Puerto Rico.

But even better- it makes the entire season exciting for fans. Not only are conference games important, but now OOC games are important for regional qualifying (while also saving schools money on travel, and allowing kids to spend more time in class), and true OOC games become instrumental in positioning schools in place for wild card berths and knockout seeding.

Anyway, just a dumb thought exercise to ponder if you're bored. 

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