Too Much March Madness is Madness!

Did you even think this year’s winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament “Play-In” Game had a chance against eventual champion Duke?  Come on! Arkansas-Pine Bluff or *Winthrop? Was there any hope at all that team number 64 would make it to the round of 32. No. Arkansas P-B was quickly dispatched in the first round by the eventual champion Blue Devils, 72-44.

If that’s what happens to team number 64, why would the NCAA expand the tournament from 65 to 96 teams? Teams 65 through 96 certainly have no shot what-so-ever if 64 was no match for Duke in this year’s first round.

Hmmmmmm. I know! CHA-CHING! $$$$$$$$$! An extra two days worth for the TV Network and the NCAA.

Whether you like it or not, the inevitability of expanding the men’s basketball tournament to 96 teams could become a reality as soon as next season. That’s fine because the number of division one schools has increased to 300+. So, post-season expansion in the tournament makes sense.

This will virtually end the “other” post-season men’s college basketball tournament, the NIT. The National Invitational Tournament was once thee post-season tournament. That changed in the 1960’s when the NCAA put the hammer down. Since then, the NIT attracts those NCAA Tournament “Bubble Teams” who just miss out on making the NCAA’s field of 65.

This year’s field of 32 NIT participants included Arizona State, Connecticut and tournament finalists North Carolina and eventual champion Dayton. So, it’s safe to say, this years NIT field of 32 would have been in this year’s NCAA’s had the tournament been made up of the proposed field of 96.

The NCAA’s plan is to keep March Madness a three week event. The top 32 teams will get a bye in the first round. That means the remaining 64 will begin play on Tuesday and Wednesday with Tuesday’s winners advancing to play that week’s Thursday regional games while the Wednesday winners advance to play in Friday’s regional games. So, you just add two days of games. Instead of one “Play-In” game, it’s a round of 32 “Play-In” games. Sure, it’s a diluted field. But, that’s the nature of the beast that is modern sports and television revenue from said sports. More = More.

I have a suggestion to keep the NIT afloat. How about the 32 losing teams from the Tuesday/Wednesday first round games advancing to the “Consolation NIT”.

Now, as far as the NCAA’s. If you’re going to give 32 teams a bye in that first round, give the bye’s to the Regular Season Conference and Conference Tournament Winners regardless of National Rankings. Those Champs earned a bye for winning their respective conference titles. If the regular season and conference tournament winner happens to be the same team, then you give that bye spot to an “at-large team” based on national rankings that didn’t win its regular season or conference tournament title.

But, aren’t those post-season Conference Tournaments already the expansion of the NCAA Tournament? It’s a process of elimination to get to the two best teams to fight it out for the National Championship. Don’t the Conference Tournaments begin that process of weeding out the posers to get to the two elite teams?

Anyway, by expanding the field to 96 teams, the NCAA’s essentially working a “do over” to change the results of those Conference Tournaments. It ends up being a third or fourth chance for some teams. Enough is enough.

Logistically speaking, with this expanded field, the NCAA should consider adding two regions. How about a North and North West Region and seeding every region with teams actually from those respective regions.  No more Syracuse University (Upstate New York) being the top-seed in the West Region. Makes no sense except to send teams in different directions so the best possible match-ups occur later rather than too early in the tournament for the television perspective.

If you seed each region with teams from their specific region, you’ll weed out those teams that are in the tournament thanks to the 32-team expansion in the opening round and assure yourself of some great later round match-ups barring early round upsets of course. Even if some of the top teams are upset early, that’ll generate even more viewer curiosity to see if one of these “Cinderella’s” can continue to advance.

March Madness expansion’s going to happen folks. If I were one of those NCAA suits, I’d talk about putting together a 16-team football playoff before expanding March Madness. But, that’s just me folks. If you can make student athletes play an extra round of college basketball, you can certainly work out some sort of football playoff incorporating bowl games.

Honestly, the “BCS” is just plain “BS” isn’t it? Enjoy the extra hoops folks!

*Every time I type in Winthrop played Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the “Play-In” game, all I can picture is my childhood friend Anne Winthrop being guarded by five guys over 6’10” while she dribbles a ball amongst the trees. Is that wrong of me?

It’s Madness!!

During this first day of MARCH MADNESS, upsets galore!! Midwest three-seed Georgetown out of Washington D.C., playing a Midwest first round game in Providence Rhode Island (what?) lost to 14-seed Ohio.

Meanwhile, West four-seed Vanderbilt out of Tennessee, playing in San Jose, California (makes sense) was upset at the buzzer by 13-seed Murray State.

After that game in the same gym, an East Regional game (huh?) pairing 11-seed and Pac-10 tournament champion Washington upsetting the East six-seed Marquette Golden Eagles.

Georgetown should’ve been in the East Regional playing in Providence, Rhode Island.

Vanderbilt should’ve have been in New Orleans instead of San Jose playing in the South Regional.

Washington, already playing in San Jose, but in the East Regional, should’ve been in the West Regional playing in San Jose.

But let’s get back to the Marquette University Golden Eagles out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Back before being “politically correct” became the norm, her athletic teams were known as the Warriors.

Marquette was the Warriors in the early 1970s when Al McGuire led Bo Ellis and Butch Lee to a National Basketball Title beating Dean Smith and North Carolina.

I bring this up because of an episode of “That 70’s Show,” which takes place in Milwaukee, I recently happened to catch on FX. The episode was about the teens in the cast going to visit the University of Wisconsin and Marquette. The guys went to visit the WU in Madison, while the girls went to visit MU in Milwaukee.

In the Marquette scenes of the show, athletic posters adorned some of the walls. They read “Marquette Golden Eagles”. WRONG! In the 70s, Marquette was referred to as the “Marquette Warriors.”

Typically on shows revolving around a certain period of time back in our history, like “That 70’s Show,” have behind the scenes staff that’s required to make sure all posters, names, mascots anything that is used on camera coincides with what they were in the time period the show re-creates.

“That 70’s Show” staff either didn’t do their homework. Or, they felt, to remain politically correct, and not offend anyone, they let the “Marquette Golden Eagle” slide for this instance thinking no one would catch the mistake.

Sorry “That 70’s Show”. But, I’m the one who pays attention to details like that especially since it’s a sports name issue.

My thought is being a “Warrior” isn’t something offensive or politically incorrect. It describes a proud defender. Considering that is sometimes how we refer to our own Men and Women in uniform, I think “That 70’s Show” blew it.

With that said, I’ll still watch “That 70’s Show”.  I love that show!!

Syracuse: Top Seed in the West Region. What?

Take out your brackets and work with me on this one. I, absolutely, love March Madness, especially the first two weeks when, Thursday thru Sunday, you have wall-to-wall college basketball from, depending on what region you’re in, early morning to the wee hours of the late night………… morning.

The regions, and seeding in those regions, are the issue. Having the West, Midwest, South and East Regions makes no sense anymore considering teams from every one of those regions sometimes don’t even play in their respective regions anymore. They add up the frequent-flyer mileage crossing the country, to and from all different regions, if they should happen to be fortunate enough to get to the Final Four, which happens to be in the North (Indianapolis), a region that’s not even represented in the March Madness scheme of things, at least on a “bracketology” map.

However, teams from the North are represented in March Madness. See what I mean!!

For instance, the top-seeded team in the West Region this year is Syracuse. That’s in the Northwest corner of New York state……on the east coast. The Orange plays its first West Region game Friday…………in Buffalo………in the northern part of New York State. Meanwhile, Gonzaga out of Spokane, Washington is seeded eighth in the West. The Bulldogs’ first West Region game is also Friday……………in Buffalo, New York! I KNOW! If you’re not a college hoops fan, your only thought is…………WHAT THE……!!!

Here’s another one for you non-college hoops geeks. Buffalo’s also hosting first and second round games in the East Region. The East Regional Semi’s and Finals are in Syracuse, New York. So, how is it that the Syracuse Orange aren’t the top-seed in the East. Kentucky is. By the way, Spokane Washington is hosting Midwest and South Regional first and second round games. But the “Zags” are nowhere to be found. Well, you can find ‘em. They’ll be in Buffalo.  You get the picture.

Who’s on First. What’s on Second. I Don’t Know’s on third. Tomorrow’s your Pitcher and he’s throwing to Today (catcher).”

What?

Used to be the top teams from each region WERE from each region and you had to win YOUR region to get to where ever the Final Four happened to be. That was “back in the day” when the tournament was only 16 and 32 teams. UCLA won 10 National Championships under college hoops coaching god, John Wooden. The Bruins came out of the West region every time.

Of course, NOW, it’s all about TV and money…………yada, yada. Get the best teams in, regardless of region. That’s fine with me. So, NOW, you can be from the University of California……………the regular-season Pacific 10 Champion, on the West Coast……………and you’re seeded eighth in the South Region and have to play your first round game in Jacksonville, Florida. At least they have Jacksonville’s region right.

Wait! Now, the NCAA College Basketball Suits are discussing the possibility of expanding March Madness from the current 65 teams to 96! DON’T DO IT!!! March Madness is already expanded. The extra teams/games are called CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS!! ESPN calls it CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK!

If you’re going to expand March Madness Games for another week, there’s no excuse to NOT HAVE A PLAYOFF in the College Football Bowl Sub-Division (1A). I’ll stay away from that one for now.

There are 16 seeds in each of the four regions. Top four seeds in each are the favorites to advance to the national “Sweet 16.”

But, when you look at the top four seeds in the West Region, not one school is from out West. The top four West seeds are:

1. Syracuse (New York) – Big East regular-season champion
2. Kansas State (Kansas) – Big 12 regular-season runner-up
3. Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) – Big East regular-season runner-up
4. Vanderbilt (Tennessee) – Lost in SEC Tourney quarter-final

Both the Pac-10 regular-season and conference tournament champions aren’t in the West Region. We discussed West Coast Conference regular season champion Gonzaga playing in the West Region where they belong. But not in Buffalo! WCC tourney champion St. Mary’s isn’t in the West region.

There are a total of 14 teams out of the West region of the country in March Madness this year. Yet not one is seeded in the top four of the West Region. The primary men’s college basketball conferences in the West:

1. The Pacific-10 – Washington, California

2. The Mountain West – BYU, UNLV, San Diego St., New Mexico

3. Conference USA – UTEP, Houston

4. Western Athletic – Utah St., New Mexico St.

5. West Coast – St. Mary’s, Gonzaga

6. Big West – UC Santa Barbara

7. Big Sky – Montana

Based on seedings in other regions, New Mexico is the highest at three in the East. They should be the top four seed in the West. Also based on the top 25 where New Mexico and St. Mary’ reside, all should be in the West region. Even though the Pac-10 had an “off year”, seems to me Washington and/or Cal should be in the West region.

All I’m suggesting is all regions should have a team/teams from that region in the top-four seeds.

With all that said and suggested, it should be another great March Madness………………that ends the first weekend in April. Huh?

Oh. Here’s my FINAL FOUR:

West Region – Kansas State
Midwest Region – Kansas
East Region – Kentucky
South Region – Duke

Final Game: Kansas and Kentucky

National Champion: KANSAS

Of course I’ve probably put an unintended curse on all four teams and I’ll be completely shut-out in the Final Four. But, that’s why it’s called March Madness……………………that ends the first weekend in April.

What?

Well. Anyway……………ENJOY THE GAMES.

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