Today I sit at home watching the ACC tournament as we start to close the books on the college basketball season and get ready for March Madness. Today is Selection Sunday! Over the last few weeks there has been some discussion about changing the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, expanding from the current 65 team to 96 teams (coaches, for, against). I think this is a TERRIBLE idea! From what I understand the idea is this would allow for more Mid-Major Conference teams, from smaller conferences, to get the opportunity to play in the "Big Dance".
That's all well and good, but you know as well as I that what will end up happening is more "major" programs getting in on name alone. 12-14 Big East teams, 8-10 ACC teams, 9-10 Big 10 team, 2 Pac 10 teams (seriously...the Pac 10 is terrible at basketball right now).
So because the internet gives everyone an opportunity to weigh in, here's my opinion:
Regular Season Championships Should Mean Something
Currently there are 30 automatic bids to the NCAA tournament. These automatic bids are determined by the winners of the end of the year conference championships tournaments, expect for the Ivy League which doesn't have a conference tournament therefore the regular season champ gets the automatic bid (nerds!).
I think for the most part this automatic bid process is pretty good, however there are times when a undeserving team during the year gets hot at tournament time and gets the "opportunity" to go to the "Big Dance" instead of a more deserving regular season champ who has played well all year. See the Mid-America Conference circa 2010, Ohio University (21-14, 7-9) the #9 seed wins the conference tournament (gets the automatic bid) while the #1 seed Kent State (23-9, 13-3)(goes home...now in this case Ohio beat Kent State in the tournament but my idea still holds).
I think both the regular season champ AND the conference tournament champ should get automatic bids. Now, I realize that often the regular season champ is the conference tournament champ. In that case and in the case of the Ivy League, that open bid would become an "at-large" bid.
30 Regular Season Champions bids
29 Conference Tournament Champions bids
6 At-Large bids (this number could be as high as 35 if ALL regular season champs win their conference tournaments...which has the same probability of winning the Powerball)
I know this is crazy
This would certainly put Joe Lunardi out of a job or at least reduce it to part-time at best. It would reward hard work throughout the season for those teams that have no other chance to get to the tournament than to win their conference tournament, but would also reward those teams who get hot at the end of the season. It would also allow for Mid-Major conferences to get at least 2 teams in every NCAA tournament.
It's not perfect
I realize that there are probably 8 Big East teams, 6 Big 10 teams, 6 Big 12 teams, 7 ACC teams that are deserving of bids to this year's NCAAs, but this formula would make conference regular season play more important, while not taking away the importance of the conference tournaments. It would also get fans watching more games, pulling for the favorite in the smaller conferences so their "power" conference team could have a shot at an at-large bid.
I also realize this would make it much more difficult on the committee because they wouldn't know how many spots they needed to fill until Selection Sunday, but it would also build the tension of that magical Sunday in mid-March. Who gets in? How many spots are left? These questions would drive more fans to more searching, more watching, and ultimately, for college basketball more money (which we all know is the bottom line.)
So those are my thoughts. What are yours?