After saturating my appetite for college basketball's March Madness this past weekend, I find that I have to reflect on what I saw. This time of year, college basketball has a euphoria that has no match, with little predictability of game outcome. For example, Middle Tennessee, a number 15 seed, upset my Final Four pick Michigan State, a number two seed. That was probably the biggest pie-in-the-face surprise during all of last week's opening round games.
It didn't stop there, as higher seeds upset one team after another. The one ‘upset’ that for me was not an upset, was Syracuse defeating Dayton. 'Cuse was placed in the tournament, almost at the end the selection night, as a 10 seed, Dayton was a seven. The talented Orangemen are a team of destiny waiting to happen, and it's not surprising to me to see them earn a spot as a Sweet 16 contender. I see the Orange moving deeper, as they prepare to take on annually present NCAA Tourney mainstay Gonzaga. I don't get why every year Gonzaga is placed as a higher seed (11). Aren't they there every year? At least it seems like they are, and they never seem to get the respect they deserve from the selection committee. I think the Syracuse zone might have an effect on the outside game of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Another big surprise was Stephen F. Austin, a 14 seed, defeating a number three - West Virginia, and winning by 14 points. SFA then lost to Notre Dame by a buzzer tip-in with 1.5 seconds remaining in the game, by freshman Rex Pflueger, his only basket for the game. In reality, it was a game that Stephen F. should have won.
The madness of March! I thought that might have been one of the best games I would see that night, but guess what, it wasn't. There was seventh seed Wisconsin, taking on number two seed Xavier, and the heroics continued. Point guard Bronson Koenig, number 24 for the Badgers, threw in a three pointer as the clock ran out to seal the upset win over Xavier.
There are questions that always seem to be on my mind concerning the NCAA Tournament: Is the selection process system fair? Do they need to make room for more teams, and is that a possibility? I look at how good some of these higher seeds are, and yet I notice some of the schools that were slighted from the opportunity to be in the tournament. The biggest question that comes up quite a lot: How to add more teams?
One scenario is already used, but to a limited extent, play-in games. Right now there are two play-ins - so let's add more. It's actually simple math, for example, if there are a borderline number of schools, maybe six, then take the six highest seeds and create six more play-in games, now you're up to 74 teams added to the brackets. In reality, they could add 16 more teams to the field, from the original 64 now up to 80, giving a handful of first round byes to lower numbered seeded teams. Yes, it will work!
Another scenario, which might sound like an extreme, give all of the number one and two seeds byes, eight teams in all, and have all other schools have sort of a first round play-in. That would make 112 teams vying for a spot in the field of 64 teams, in a regional bracket layout. The team with the better record, and power of their league, will host that first round/play-in game. Not to hurt the National Invitation Tournament, which could then take the losers and filter them into its format. Actually adding 112 schools is only one more game added to the schools quest to be national champs. This can go on, even with fewer games, maybe byes to 1,2,3, and 4, and the math is the same, with 16 byes and 96 schools involved with play-ins.
I'm sure this sounds a lot more complicated than it is, but it is definitely feasible. Basketball is a sport where these types of tournament scenarios are plausible. I know when I was in college, at the end of my career as a player, I got involved with a state/national AAU senior tournament in New Mexico, the format would determine a state champion with a series of mini-tournaments (regions) and the crowned champions would move on to the eventual final four. It does work, and it can be done because of the nature of the sport.
I really feel this type of tournament format would be good for the game; it would create more interest and give schools more incentive, not to mention a great tool for colleges to recruit with a history of participation in the NCAA's March Madness. This interpretation is obviously my "hoops dreams," a fantasy; I call it the Lunacy of March!