Monday, March 23, 2009

Response to Reader Comment

A few days back, I suggested that the NCAA should create three more play-in games to bring the total number of teams in the Tournament field to 68.

Tom posted an interesting response:

There shouldn't even be one play-in game, let alone four. Is Morehead St really worthy of a berth when a good team from a major conference is relegated to the NIT? If there were four play-in games, would you start going to Division II conference champions or would you go back to bubble teams from major conferences? If you go to bubble teams from major conferences and they win, how would that be fair to #1 seeds in the tournament?

Allow me to further elaborate.

One great thing about the NCAA Basketball Tournament (unlike football) is that every conference is guaranteed a bid into the Big Dance regardless of the conference's size, stature or power rating. Win and you're in. However, as even casual fans know, the weaker conference winners (ie the 16-seeds) have never won a game in the Tournament.

A few years back, in an effort to get more "quality" teams into the field, the NCAA decided to create a play-in game to add one team to the 64-team field. The two teams would battle for the right to get embarrassed, err, compete on national television (at least they can tell their grandchildren they won a Tournament game).

To me, the idea has merit, but I cannot see any reason to have just one play-in game. What is the purpose?

My idea was to add three more games which would pit the weakest eight teams in the Tournament against each other and allow four more deserving "bubble teams" entry. After all, the point of this whole Tournament is to find the best teams and let them settle it on the court. These "bubble teams" would be ranked in their normal slots (seeds 12-14).

Tom, the at-large, bubble teams would not compete in the play-in games. These games would be reserved for the eight weakest qualifying teams.

Had the NCAA instituted these games this season, Creighton, St. Mary's and Florida probably would have had a chance to compete for the real National title and not the National Invitational Tournament title.


  1. To clarify, when I mentioned bubble teams from major conferences, I meant those teams that did not get in. You brought up Florida. Perfect example. I think we can agree that Florida is a better team than Radford, which received an automatic berth. Yet, Florida is playing in the NIT after a 25-10 season. In your proposal, Florida would have to endure a play-in just for the right to face a #1 seed. How is that fair to either team in that matchup?

  2. The committee would rank all 68 teams (including automatic qualifiers). The eight worst teams would have a play-in game to face the #1 seeds. Florida, as you said, would not have been subject to these play-in games because they would be ranked higher than teams like Radford.