"I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."
--- Homer Simpson
With word spreading today that a 96-team NCAA tournament is "a done deal," there's only a solitary, simply question to ask the guardians of college basketball.
How many of you white males, age 18 to 49 (and maybe a little older, too), are responsible for this dumb suggestion?
Yes, it seems all well and good, going for the green (and gold, silver, bronze, frankincense, myrrh and whatever the hell else is valued by the folks who lord over the pure and pristine amateur experience that is the NCAA). After all, if the NCAA tournament makes all this money now, just imagine how much those silly television networks will pay for 50 percent more of it!
In theory (to borrow another Homer Simpson line), this makes sense. But just what sort of product might that be?
Glad you asked. Thanks to my current unemployment (which would be nice to rectify), I have time to look into silly projects that normal people just don't have the time for.
You know, like projecting a 96-team field.
The plan was to project a 65-team field for today. That'll have to wait until tomorrow, since this seems a little more timely and pressing.
Of course, half the bracketology rules have be re-written. Since there will probably be a dozen Big East teams in the field, it simply isn't possible to avoid potential conference matchups until the Elite Eight.
Right now, the two worst teams in the field get sent to Dayton for the 64-vs.-65 game. Clearly, there won't be any protections for small conference champions. So they're pretty much all headed for the new 32-game opening round.
I will make the assumption that a team will have to be at least .500 against Division I opponents to qualify for this. So at least eliminates the possibly of every major conference team receiving an invitation. And since this is a 2010 bracket, Southern California isn't eligible because of self-imposed penalties. And yes, that takes a team out of the field, which might be one of the most damning things to say about this lunacy.
One rule ignored: Repeating regular-season matchups. At this point, would that even matter? Also a warning: This was thrown together fast, so the seedings weren't thoroughly vetted. But they're in the right ballpark.
Using the RPI data from Jerry Palm's CollegeRPI.com site, it's possible to project an incredibly awkward, unwieldy bracket. I haven't even done it yet and I'm shuddering.
[An hour later...]
Yep, it was bad. But this is apparently what the NCAA wants --- you know, to pacify coaches who claim there's so many good teams out there and to rake in a lot more money.
Now, I'm not sure anyone has really thought through the ramifications of fielding the following product. Enough people will note the regular season gets devalued. At least half of the conference tournaments will get really devalued. And then there's this inevitable thought: If the men's tournament is 96 teams, shouldn't the women's basketball tournament follow suit? That's actually a logical idea compared to the rest of this mess.
So here it is, your NCAA tournament of the future ... TODAY!
(1) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (16) Northwestern/(17) CAA/George Mason
(8) Florida State vs. (9) Charlotte/(24) SWAC/Jackson State
(4) WCC/Gonzaga vs. (13) WAC/Utah State/(20) Memphis
(5) MWC/Brigham Young vs. (12) South Florida/(21) Miami
(3) Purdue vs. (14) Texas Tech/(19) Notre Dame
(6) Vanderbilt vs. (11) IVY/Cornell/(22) N.C. State
(2) Georgetown vs. (15) Washington/(18) SOUTHLAND/Sam Houston
(7) Clemson vs. (10) Dayton/(23) ATLANTIC SUN/Jacksonville
(1) Syracuse vs. (16) MAC/Kent State/(17) SUMMIT/Oakland
(8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Old Dominion/(24) PATRIOT/Lehigh
(4) Ohio State vs. (13) North Carolina/(20) St. John's
(5) Xavier vs. (12) Mississippi State/(21) BIG WEST/Pacific
(3) Tennessee vs. (14) Louisville/(19) VCU
(6) Wake Forest vs. (11) CONFERENCE USA/UAB/(22) OVC/Murray State
(2) Texas vs. (15) Wichita State/(18) Louisiana Tech
(7) HORIZON/Butler vs. (10) PAC-10/California/(23) MEAC/Morgan State
(1) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (16) UTEP/(17) William & Mary
(8) Texas A&M vs. (9) Mississippi/(24) NEC/Robert Morris
(4) ATLANTIC 10/Temple vs. (13) Minnesota/(20) Iona
(5) New Mexico vs. (12) Maryland/(21) Arizona State
(3) ACC/Duke vs. (14) South Carolina/(19) Harvard
(6) Baylor vs. (11) Cincinnati/(22) SoCON/College of Charleston
(2) BIG TEN/Michigan State vs. (15) Arizona/(18) Marquette
(7) MISSOURI VALLEY/Northern Iowa vs. (10) Saint Mary's/(23) BIG SOUTH/Coastal Carolina
(1) SEC/Kentucky vs. (16) Virginia Tech/(17) Seton Hall
(8) Missouri vs. (9) UNLV/(24) SUN BELT/Arkansas State
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) San Diego State/(20) Missouri State
(5) Pittsburgh vs. (12) Richmond/(21) Virginia
(3) Kansas State vs. (14) Connecticut/(19) Illinois
(6) Georgia Tech vs. (11) Florida/(22) BIG SKY/Weber State
(2) West Virginia vs. (15) Northeastern/(18) Tulsa
(7) Rhode Island vs. (10) MAAC/Siena/(23) AMERICA EAST/Maine
Last four in: N.C. State, Arizona State, Iona, Virginia
Last four out: Alabama, Oklahoma, Marshall, Providence
Multi-bid leagues: Big East (13), ACC (11), Big 12 (8), Big Ten (7), SEC (7), Atlantic 10 (6), CAA (5), Conference USA (4), Mountain West (4), Pac-10 (4), Missouri Valley (3), Ivy (2), Metro Atlantic (2), WAC (2), West Coast (2)
Take a look at those first round games, and come up with a list of compelling games.
Let's just say it's a very short list.
Is Connecticut-Illinois compelling? Or UAB-Murray State? Or San Diego State-Missouri State? How about Texas Tech-Notre Dame?
Of course not. Three of those are NIT games, and UAB-Murray State occurs when there are upsets in a region's 3/14 and 6/11 games.
One interesting side effect is the quality of opponent the top seeds have to play in the second round. Think of the message: "You've had a great season, West Virginia. Now go play Northeastern or Tulsa. Have fun."
So, sure, the NCAA can expand the tournament. But the first round will be a mess, filled with at least two dozen matchups even the most bracket-obsessed fan would shrug at.
But some guys in Indianapolis will make some money off it all, no matter how dumb their suggestion really is.