Too Much March Madness is Madness!

Did you even think this year’s winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament “Play-In” Game had a chance against eventual champion Duke?  Come on! Arkansas-Pine Bluff or *Winthrop? Was there any hope at all that team number 64 would make it to the round of 32. No. Arkansas P-B was quickly dispatched in the first round by the eventual champion Blue Devils, 72-44.

If that’s what happens to team number 64, why would the NCAA expand the tournament from 65 to 96 teams? Teams 65 through 96 certainly have no shot what-so-ever if 64 was no match for Duke in this year’s first round.

Hmmmmmm. I know! CHA-CHING! $$$$$$$$$! An extra two days worth for the TV Network and the NCAA.

Whether you like it or not, the inevitability of expanding the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams could become a reality as soon as next season. That’s fine because the number of division one schools has increased to 300+. So, post-season expansion in the tournament makes sense.

This will virtually end the “other” post-season men’s college basketball tournament, the NIT. The National Invitational Tournament was once thee post-season tournament. That changed in the 1960’s when the NCAA put the hammer down. Since then, the NIT attracts those NCAA Tournament “Bubble Teams” who just miss out on making the NCAA’s field of 65.

This year’s field of 32 NIT participants included Arizona State, Connecticut and tournament finalists North Carolina and eventual champion Dayton. So, it’s safe to say, this years NIT field of 32 would have been in this year’s NCAA’s had the tournament been made up of the proposed field of 96.

The NCAA’s plan is to keep March Madness a three week event. The top 32 teams will get a bye in the first round. That means the remaining 64 will begin play on Tuesday and Wednesday with Tuesday’s winners advancing to play that week’s Thursday regional games while the Wednesday winners advance to play in Friday’s regional games. So, you just add two days of games. Instead of one “Play-In” game, it’s a round of 32 “Play-In” games. Sure, it’s a diluted field. But, that’s the nature of the beast that is modern sports and television revenue from said sports. More = More.

I have a suggestion to keep the NIT afloat. How about the 32 losing teams from the Tuesday/Wednesday first round games advancing to the “Consolation NIT”.

Now, as far as the NCAA’s. If you’re going to give 32 teams a bye in that first round, give the bye’s to the Regular Season Conference and Conference Tournament Winners regardless of National Rankings. Those Champs earned a bye for winning their respective conference titles. If the regular season and conference tournament winner happens to be the same team, then you give that bye spot to an “at-large team” based on national rankings that didn’t win its regular season or conference tournament title.

But, aren’t those post-season Conference Tournaments already the expansion of the NCAA Tournament? It’s a process of elimination to get to the two best teams to fight it out for the National Championship. Don’t the Conference Tournaments begin that process of weeding out the posers to get to the two elite teams?

Anyway, by expanding the field to 96 teams, the NCAA’s essentially working a “do over” to change the results of those Conference Tournaments. It ends up being a third or fourth chance for some teams. Enough is enough.

Logistically speaking, with this expanded field, the NCAA should consider adding two regions. How about a North and North West Region and seeding every region with teams actually from those respective regions.  No more Syracuse University (Upstate New York) being the top-seed in the West Region. Makes no sense except to send teams in different directions so the best possible match-ups occur later rather than too early in the tournament for the television perspective.

If you seed each region with teams from their specific region, you’ll weed out those teams that are in the tournament thanks to the 32-team expansion in the opening round and assure yourself of some great later round match-ups barring early round upsets of course. Even if some of the top teams are upset early, that’ll generate even more viewer curiosity to see if one of these “Cinderella’s” can continue to advance.

March Madness expansion’s going to happen folks. If I were one of those NCAA suits, I’d talk about putting together a 16-team football playoff before expanding March Madness. But, that’s just me folks. If you can make student athletes play an extra round of college basketball, you can certainly work out some sort of football playoff incorporating bowl games.

Honestly, the “BCS” is just plain “BS” isn’t it? Enjoy the extra hoops folks!

*Every time I type in Winthrop played Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the “Play-In” game, all I can picture is my childhood friend Anne Winthrop being guarded by five guys over 6’10” while she dribbles a ball amongst the trees. Is that wrong of me?

NCAA Men’s Hoops Final: A Celebration of “Hoosiers”

Truly a classic men’s college championship basketball game in Indianapolis Monday night with top-seed Duke hanging on to beat five-seed Butler, 61-59. Came down to the final second as Butler’s Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave for the win bounced off the rim. Oh, so close!

Ratings for this Final Four, and the entire tournament in general, were the highest in five years easily topping last year’s Final Four which saw North Carolina beat Michigan State in Detroit for the championship. Why? Plenty of upsets by underdogs over favorites like Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse making the tournament wide open.

According to the blog Sports Media Watch, Monday’s game was up 31% in ratings and 36% in viewership (24 million to last year’s 18 million)from last year. SMW goes on to say Butler/Duke drew a higher rating than every Major League Baseball game since ‘04 and every NBA game since ‘02. Excluding the NFL and the Olympics mind you, the game ranks as the third-most viewed sports telecast of 2010, behind only the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Texas and the Rose Bowl game between Ohio State and Oregon.

The game interest obviously had plenty to do with Mid-Major Butler. Certainly not a Cinderella when you consider entering the title game, the Horizon League Champion Bulldogs were riding a 25-game winning streak and had resided in the national top 25 for most of the year. Butler was certainly the underdog against mighty ACC Champion Duke and justifiably so considering the tradition of Blue Devils Basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

What the ratings and viewership numbers for this game tell me is, to be cliché, America always roots for the underdog. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It helps that Butler’s campus is less than eight miles away from this year’s Final Four site, Lucas Oil Stadium. You can’t script this but, also, the Bulldogs home-gym is Hinkle Fieldhouse, the gym where the state high school championship game in the move “Hoosiers” was filmed. OH, COME ON! How fun is that!

So, for the life of me, I don’t understand why some sports radio hosts believed if Butler were to win the national championship, it would set the game back 50 years and that having a mid-major like Butler just playing in the title game would sound the death knell for CBS and its ratings.

I take it back. I know why these guys would publicize this. For exactly that. Publicity. So, here you go guys.

ESPN radio’s Colin Cowherd, host of the show The Herd, and, also, co-host of ESPN TV’s Sports Nation, said Butler winning the national title was bad for men’s college basketball and would set it back 50 years.

Meanwhile, FOX Sports Radio host and FOX Sports Nets Rumors Reporter, Ben Maller, said if Butler made it to the title game, ratings would be at an all time low for CBS. Now, I’m not bashing Big Ben because he’s my boy. We both have worked together on radio and TV and we’re pals. But, COME ON, BEN! Turns out my buddy was, obviously, wrong.

For Cowherd, it’s inconceivable to believe Butler winning the national title would be bad for college basketball. Of course, the Bulldogs came up just short in their quest. But, they proved they belonged with the big boys extending Duke to the final second.

For Cowherd to say Butler winning the national title would be bad for college basketball is similar to saying Texas-Western beating Kentucky for the 1966 national Championship with TW coach Don Haskins starting five African-American players, for the first time in the history of the game, against Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats was bad for the game. Haskins’ starting those five African-American players was exactly what the game needed at that particular time in our history.

Butler’s performance the other night against Duke is exactly what the game needed at this particular time in the sports history. It says those mid-major programs belong with the so-called “Big Six” programs. That alone peaks the interest of the vast majority of American Society who want to see the underdog have his day against the big boy.

Hence the big television numbers, Big Ben!

Congratulations to the Butler Bulldogs for showing the mid-majors belong and playing a terrific game. Much congratulations to Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils for another national title and playing a terrific game. Thanks to both schools for putting on a tremendous show for us to enjoy.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: