With my first installment into the blog as an official writer, I figured I would attempt to ruffle some feathers…
I am picking a completely terrible time to write this article, considering the fact that (14)Ohio just upset (3)Georgetown, (13)Murray St. upset (4)Vanderbilt, and (11)Old Dominion upset (6)Notre Dame. But, contrary to the outlandish results of the 2010 NCAA tournament, I find a big problem with the lack of talent in the NCAA tournament. I’m not talking about talent in terms of individual players, or even in terms of the best teams in college basketball being in the tournament, because they are. There is no doubt that the top seeds (one, two, and three seeds) are comprised of the best squads in all the land. Where I have a problem is when you get down to the lower seeds (the twelve seeds and below). I understand that much of the beauty of “March Madness” revolves around the Cinderella story. I was on the George Mason bandwagon in 2006 when the 11th seeded Patriots made it all the way to the Final Four. But, in reality the lowest seeded team to ever win an NCAA championship was 8th seeded Villanova in 1985. Low seeded teams just simply have no chance of winning the NCAA championship. This is where my concern lies: How can the NCAA basketball tournament be justified as a tournament that determines the national championship when the 64 best teams in the country are not involved in the tournament. There is no way of justifying that Vermont, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, East Tennessee St., and Lehigh (the 16 seeds in this year’s tournament) are better teams than Virginia Tech, Illinois, Arizona State, and Mississippi State (who are the four 1 seeds in the NIT tournament). There would be a much better chance of those four NIT teams beating a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, than those four conference winners that received the 16 seeds.
Then there are people that make the argument that if you win your conference tournament than you deserve an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. To tell you the truth, I agree with you. Sadly, that is not the way that the NCAA tournament is run. This year, the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and the winner of the Big South conference tournament (Winthrop) were forced to participate in a “play-in” game to determine who would have the opportunity to take on Duke. These kids did everything required to participate in an NCAA tournament game, yet that opportunity was slyly taken away from them. The 65 vs. 64 game has no feel of an NCAA tournament game. It occurs two days before the tournament even starts, and I would not be surprised if the arena they played in was not even ¾ of the way full. The implementation of that game was simply an excuse to get one more “big conference” team into the tournament. To place another team within the field of 64 that has a legitimate chance of winning some games. Therefore, the theory that all conference tournament winners get a “shot” in the NCAA tournament is actually false, considering two of these conference tournament winners are forced to play into the NCAA field of 64.
So, if the NCAA tournament created a game consisting of two small conference teams in order to open a spot in the field for a big conference school, then why not just eliminate the automatic bid completely? Just hear me out. During college football season we all are bitching and moaning about there not being a playoff. The reason: to give everyone (including teams like Boise St.) and equal shot of winning the BCS National Championship. I bring that same philosophy to the NCAA tournament. In my opinion, the only validation of allowing “automatic bids” from smaller conferences into the tournament is to continue the dominance from the bigger conferences (ex. Big East, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10, etc). The first round of the NCAA tournament for the high seeds is essentially a tune up game for the true tournament that lies ahead of them. And I know that sometimes a team like Ohio can upset a team like Georgetown in the first round, but how much of a chance does that Ohio team have of making a legitimate run in the tournament. Whereas if that seed consisted of Seton Hall or Cincinnati, those teams would be much more dangerous in the tournament going forward. The only way to create a 64 to 65 team tournament in order to determine the national champion is to place the 64 BEST teams in the tournament. Forget about bids for the America East, Big Sky, Great West, and many other minor conferences. Give tournament bids to the best teams in the country, no matter what conference they are in, and then we truly will have a tournament that will determine the best team in all of college basketball.
Filed under: College Basketball