Friday, January 29, 2010

96 Teams - Does this look ridiculous?

Last month, word got out that the NCAA was looking to, among other things, expand the tournament from the current 65 teams to a proposed 96 teams. So a few days ago, I got to wondering, as a prelude to my first NIT bracket projections on Monday, how would a 96-team bracket look? At first glance, it's not pretty.

Here are the ground rules:

I pretty much extended the rules for 65 teams to get to 96 teams. I kept the same format as it is today with 8 cities hosting the initial rounds. (Since the first round cities have been announced through 2013, the NCAA would have to keep them right?) News articles think CBS (or ESPN or whoever would televise this) would need an extra week to do this, but really all you would need is two extra days tops. So just add it on to the existing hosting format. Instead of Thursday-Sunday, you could have it from Wednesday-Monday.

Once 2014 rolls around (or the NCAA breaks the contracts with the cities already committed to hosting the first rounds), I would suggest they let the 16 national seeds (the top 16 teams) host the first three rounds. This would also get rid of numbering teams to a 24 seed, like I have it in this bracket (I only kept it for easy comparison with today's modern bracket). Each 6-team pod would be seeded from 1-6.

In terms of the bracketing rules, the main thing I kept an eye on was to prevent rematches in the round of 96 and 64 and conference rematches in the round of 96, 64, and 32. Everything else became fair game. The existing rules would probably need to be simplified in such a way so that the committee can complete the bracket in a timely manner.

Here's the sample bracket! (Note: this has little bearing on the regular brackets I produce.)

Sorry Georgia, NC State, Kent State, and Oklahoma. You are the first 4 teams out.

The breakdown of teams by conference:
13 - Big East
11 - ACC
8 - SEC, Big 12
7 - Big 10
6 - Atlantic 10
5 - CUSA
4 - Colonial, Mountain West, Pac-10
3 - WAC
2 - Missouri Valley, Ivy, West Coast

So after doing this exercise, here are some pros and cons:


There are more teams! - Yes, there are 31 more teams, which means theoretically 31 more coaches are safe and 31 more schools get a piece of that tournament money for their conferences.

More openings for non-BCS teams - In my bracket, non-BCS teams got 14 of the 31 additional spots after receiving 6 out of 34 in last Monday's bracket.

The lower seeds have a better chance at advancing - The 16 seeds of today are usually one and done after facing a number one seed. However, in this format, they would be re-numbered as a 24 seed and would have to face the 9 then 8 seed in the first two rounds, a significantly easier path for Cinderella. At the same time, a 1 seed would get a more difficult opponent in its first game.


BCS dominance - It probably just applies to this bracket only but practically the entire Big East and ACC get to participate. Is that really spreading the wealth?

Say goodbye to the NIT - The NIT has been the home to the NCAA rejects lately and now that the NCAA owns the NIT, there really isn't a good reason to hold on to it.

Dull first round matchups - Before the NCAA tourney begins, how psyched are you to watch those first round NIT matchups on ESPN? Yeah, that's what I thought. Well, with the top 32 teams getting a bye for the first round, get ready for that, but renamed as the NCAA first round.
Large bracket - Did you see how large that bracket is? There would be too many teams to keep track of for the average person to stay focused. The pro for me would probably be I would not have to track 60-odd brackets in the matrix at the end of the year.

So, is it doable? Sure it is. Would I want it? Probably not. It's fine at 65. Maybe at most, 68. If to make the money work, the NCAA needs 80, that may also be palatable.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bracket - January 25

The last teams in? That would be Florida and North Carolina. Wow. For UNC, three straight losses including two at home will do that. I'm not sure what's wrong with the team, but judging by Roy Williams' looks on the sideline, he's looking for answers too. The next 4 games are tough but winnable before a home date with Duke.

Florida has the looks of a decent resume with wins over Michigan State and Florida State and only a bad loss to South Alabama. But after watching them a few times this year, they haven't been overly impressive. Without Parsons' heroics versus NC State and South Carolina, the resume turns ugly really fast. Its game against Tennessee on Sunday looms large.

As for the Pac-10, it's already been ugly and getting uglier. It's probably best that we let them have their fun until a Pac-10 tournament winner emerges in mid-March.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bracket - January 18

Just a follow-up to last week's note about the Pac-10. The top teams actually came out okay this week. California split a difficult road trip to the Washington schools (though they did look bad in Seattle). Washington defended the home court against Cal and Stanford. And Arizona State swept the Oregon schools on the road. It's a step in the right direction.

The big mover up the bracket was Ohio State. I had started to doubt them even with Evan Turner back in the lineup after their road loss to Minnesota. However, wins over Purdue and Wisconsin pushed them from first team out to a six seed. If they get wins over Northwestern and West Virginia this week, they'll shoot back into a protected seed.

On the flip side is Miami (FL). With a weak non-conference schedule that the Hurricanes pretty much dominated and a win over Wake Forest, things were looking good. However, losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia brought them back to earth. They'll need to collect wins in their next 5 games before a tough 3-game stretch against Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Duke.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bracket - January 11

I was going to write this earlier today, but work got in the way and then I just had to read up on Lane Kiffin going from Tennessee to USC. That was just as surprising as Carroll to Seattle.

The big topic this week centered on the Pac-10. If the right (wrong?) dominoes fall, it's possible only the conference tournament champion would go to the NCAA tournament. The only team with a great non-conference win is USC and they won't be part of anything this postseason. In order to avoid this one-team fate, it's important that 2 or 3 teams break away from the pack (ideally, Cal, Washington, and Arizona State would be the strongest contenders). Beating each other up will give the committee no reason to consider any team for an at-large bid. This week, I've got 2 teams: Cal as the champ and Washington as the last team in.

All in all, while there were many upsets this weekend, there wasn't too much change at the top as only New Mexico and Ole Miss fell out of the top 4 seeds and were replaced by Wisconsin and Gonzaga.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bracket - January 4

Pittsburgh is the big mover this week as a 5-game winning streak including a road win over Syracuse has propelled them to a 5 seed. Tonight's win over Cincinnati only helps their resume as they enter a tough 3-game stretch in conference (Connecticut, Louisville, Georgetown).

Also making big moves in the bracket were Baylor, with convincing wins over SEC foes Arkansas and South Carolina, and Cincinnati, with its win over UConn (though the Bearcats will tumble a bit with its loss to Pitt).

Ohio State makes a big fall after going 0-2 to start Big Ten play. Their RPI right now is in the 90s. Luckily, facing Big Ten teams will improve their RPI by the time Selection Sunday but they also need to start winning and right now, since Evan Turner probably won't be back for another couple of weeks at the earliest. (Edit: Well, I guess he's back now.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

USC Out of Postseason Contention

USC has announced self-imposed sanctions in connection with the recruitment of O.J. Mayo. The immediate effect is that the Trojans will not participate in any postseason tournament this year, including the Pac-10 tournament. So, bracketologists, take note.