Thoughts on fixing the Tournament

This is my first time doing a Fanpost so please be gentle.

I don't know what everyone's opinion is but expanding the tournament out to 96 teams seems like a horrible idea to me.  It seems like the final death-nail for the regular season because so many teams will be in the post-season.  I remember complaints back in the Roy years that the NCAA Tournament overshadowed everything else that happened in the season.  KU would put up great season after great season but have no tournament success.  Not much has changed.

I am of the opinion that the NCAA Tournament is the most exciting way to crown a championship but not the best.  After the break I'll share some of my ideas on how to do it better.

To me, the main problem with the NCAA Tournament is that it rewards a championship to teams differently from how regular season success is earned.  The college basketball season is a grind.  It is nearly impossible to win every game and a loss doesn't hurt you.  Mediocre teams can go on extended runs during a season (Texas at the beginning of the season) but only talented and disciplined teams can win a high percentage over the 30+ game season.  Add to this that nearly any team can win any one game.  Upsets are not uncommon in college basketball. 


Contrast this with college football.  Football has it's own issues on crowning a champion but the game kind of lends itself to the system.  Usually an undefeated team plays for the championship.  Rarely do the teams that play in the championship loss to unranked teams.  While people applaud the idea of a playoff, most think at most 8-12 teams.  Most don't think teams outside the Top-15 would realistically beat top-5 teams and certainly those teams haven't shown enough to deserve talk of being the champion.  Talent wins out in football and the most talented teams are the one's left with 1 or fewer loss at the end of the season.

The NBA solved the basketball tournament problem by making the playoffs be 5 and 7 game series.  Baseball has a similar problem because on any one day the Royals can beat the Yankees, heck they might even sweep them over three games, but over 7 talent will prevail (most of the time).  The NBA has; however, destroyed the NBA regular season.  Too many games, not enough meaning, and players don't play hard or with purpose until the playoffs.  MLB avoids this by limiting the number of teams in the postseason amplifying the importance of the regular season.

To me, the other big problem with the NCAA tournament is that it isn't random.  Who does the seeding?  Why are some teams that have accomplished less in the regular season given easier competition in the Tournament than teams finishing the season ranked #1? (ie, Kansas and Duke this season)  I don't know.  Were Butler and N. Iowa underseeded? Temple overseeded?  Who decides?  KU certainly has needed to play better inorder to have success in the tournament but there must be a more objective way to seed the teams.

Here are my solutions.  I propose a radical one and a not so radical one.

Radical one: Adopt a World Cup style pool play tournament.

In the Soccer World Cup, teams from the different continents are matched up against each other in pool play.  The top two teams in the pool advance.  A loss hurts you but doesn't stop you from advancing.  Talent usually wins out but Cinderella's are possible.  Favorites that fail to advance aren't eliminated by chance but rather leave if they fall flat on there face. 

This could be easily done in college basketball.  You could take the top teams from the top conferences, say only the top-4.  The regular season maintains its importance.  At-large bids could be determined like they are now with conference tournament champions getting pooled.  You set up 8 pools of 4 teams each.  Teams would be divided into four categories.  Teams that finish 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 in conference play.  The 1's are put together and placed in pools with a bingo type drawing.  2's are matched up against the 1's with a similar drawing. 

After pool play, the top two teams in each pool advance to a 16 team single elimination tournament. 

Of course the larger you make it the more difficult it would be to manage and the longer it would take.  You could keep the 64 team format by making the bottom 32 play a single game elimination weekend in order to qualify for the final spots in pool play. or maybe a two game single elimination weekend with 96 teams. 

My not so radical change:  Randomly seed the teams.

There is no reason why the seeding process can't be random.  A couple ideas I have.  Extend the top 25 ranking out to 32 teams.  Break it into groups of four and where you finish determines the top 8 seeds in each bracket.  Adopt a point system for wins or adopt the RPI and use it rank them teams into groups. 

Once teams are put into groups, then do a bingo style seeding draws like I described above for a pool play tournament.  Either way, you eliminate the complaint that Duke got an easy draw because they bring ratings. 

The biggest problem I'm having is dealing with 64 teams.  For me, past 32 it becomes more difficult to figure out a way to reward smaller conferences with tournament appearances randomly or objective based upon regular season success.  I'm open to ideas.

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