Thursday, April 22, 2010

Breathing a Sigh of Relief

According to the press release from the NCAA, CBS and Turner, the NCAA tournament will undergo an expansion to 68 teams starting next year. This is a good move, especially in comparison to the looming 96-team concept. I'm sure years down the road, 96 teams will be a good idea, but not today. Not when the 65-team bracket was fine the way it was.

No official word yet on any format changes, but with 68 teams, presumably the bottom 8 teams (the 15 and 16 seeds of today) will have to play on opening round day, which is still unfair since they qualified for the tourney while a middle-of-the-road major conference team that barely makes it in gets to play in the "real" tournament.

With the basketball tournament moving forward relatively unchanged, we can move on to presentation. They're adding three networks (TNT, TBS, and truTV, which used to be Court TV if I'm not mistaken) to cover the tourney so that every game is televised. My hope is that CBS will continue to produce the tourney a la the Masters when ESPN televises the early rounds. Watching Turner personalities cover a tournament where they don't even show any regular-season games is a bad idea.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Bracket Project takes a break

Congrats to Duke for winning the 2010 championship. I'll be back in November to re-start the site but will pop up every now and then to keep track of any news involving the NCAA tournament including expansion.

Until then...

Friday, April 2, 2010

96 Teams: The Schedule's All Wrong

Judging from the news conference held by Greg Shaheen and the NCAA, an expansion to 96 teams seems like a certainty. The only question would be will it happen after the NCAA opts out of its contract this year or after its contract expires in three years.

But for something they claimed to have studied since 2004, how could they get the schedule of the tournament so wrong? Shaheen lays it out this way. In total, it would stay in the footprint of the existing 65-team tournament but additional games would be played in the weekdays between the first and second weekends.

So if it were held this year, here's your schedule:

March 18-19: Round of 96
March 20-21: Round of 64
March 23-24: Round of 32 (Site Unknown)
March 25-26: Round of 16
March 27-28: Round of 8
April 3: Final Four
April 5: Championship Game

Students lose: As John Feinstein points out in his back-and-forth with Shaheen, it's possible the Sweet 16 will lose an entire week of classes. But it's worse than that. 96 teams have to wait until Sunday at the latest to play their first game. How much focus will there be on school when there's a tournament to be played in a few days? Better to get it out of the way sooner so that the focus on school can come back a lot quicker.

Teams lose: When I set up my 96-team bracket a couple of months ago, I set it up assuming 3 games would be played in first week. Why? It gives the top 32 teams more of a competitive advantage to be a top-8 seed because they would play a possible two games while the other 64 teams would have played 3 games that first week. Under the proposed model, it's quite possible during the second week, a top-8 seed would have to play 4 games in a week. That's no incentive. Plus, the round of 32 may occur at the regional sites, which would mean teams would fly out for 1 game for the round of 64 and then hurry onto the plane to get to the regional site, which is wasteful.

Fans lose: Specifically, fans who attend the games. If you want to follow your team around, you don't have a NCAA travel agent to help you with your flight the next day nor would you have the 3 or 4 days of lead time you have in today's format. And if your team truly is playing a maximum of 1 game at a first/second round site, why would you go?

I'm sure by the time the 96-team tournament begins, we'll be waiting in anticipation for the game between the 12th-place Big East team against the 3rd-place team from a conference most people have never heard of, but until then, there's still time to fix the logistics of such a tournament (or to leave things the way things are).