I need to apologize to all of my loyal followers out there (thank you Daniel and Jenny) ... this post has been a long time coming. We are now at the afternoon before the National Championship Game and I still have not written anything about the NCAA Tournament. Well, that's about to change.
Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, here are my feelings about this year's Big Dance:
- As expected, the tournament this year was completely up for grabs. In a season that featured an unbelievable number of top ranked teams losing (often to opponents outside the Top 25), you had to figure that brackets were going to look like Kevin Ware's leg when all was said and done ... mangled, ugly, and waiting for another chance next year. And we have not been disappointed. Georgetown (2 Seed) lost in the first round, FGCU (aka Dunk City) made it to the second weekend of the dance, and only 1 team ranked better than 4 made it to the Final Four. There have been upsets left and right and you never really knew who was going to win on any given night. Which makes it even more improbable that ...
- Both of the teams in the National Championship Game were ranked #1 in the country at some point during the regular season. Ironic isn't it? Sure, Michigan came into the tournament ice cold with a 4 seed, but only a couple of months ago they were at the top of the heap. After all the hype, the upsets, the mid majors, the matching basketball courts in 16 different cities ... we're left with 2 teams that have been near the top all season.
- Have you noticed that despite all the upsets, there have been an unusually SMALL number of buzzer beaters in this year's tournament? As I sit here typing, I can really only remember one game-winning shot being made, and I couldn't even tell you which game it came from. This has been one of the best tournaments in recent memory, yet there is a noticeable lack of heart-stopping moments to end games. Many of the contests came down to the last minute ... but barely any came down to the last second.
- I started thinking a couple weeks ago how I would make the tournament better. What rules would I change or what format adjustments would I make to improve March Madness? Here's a couple of things I came up with:
1. Get rid of teams 65-68. Seriously ... is this really necessary? I get that the tournament is all about revenue and these schools want a chance to shine on a national level, but isn't 64 teams enough? It was bad when they expanded to 65 and decided to have the "play-in game" (how do you really determine the 65th best team in the country) but now we're getting absurd. And what makes it even worse? It's not like the 8 worst teams play and then get stuck against the 1 seeds in the next round ... oh no, that would be too sensible. Instead, they randomly put the "first four" anywhere in the bracket they want! In one game it's a battle of 16 seeds, in another it's 12, 10 in another ... I mean come on. If you're going to do it, just make some sense. Which brings me to my next change ...
2. Stop calling the "first four" games Round 1! It's not Round 1! All it is is a chance for the NCAA to make some extra money with a gimicky tournament start. Call it what they are: Play-in Games!
3. No more ranking the Number 1 seeds or declaring that any one of them is the "Number 1 Overall Seed." What this implies (and sometimes is said directly) is that the region with the overall Number 1 seed will have the weakest of the 2 seeds. That's a lovely thought except for one small problem ... that's not how it works. This year, Louisville was the top seed, and deservedly so. Which means of all the 2 seeds, they should be playing the weakest in their bracket. The issue here is that Dook was the 2 seed in the Midwest. How is this possible? Up until the day before Selection Sunday, Dook was expected to be a 1 seed. Even on Selection Sunday many thought it would go to them instead of Gonzaga. So how in the world do they drop from a 1 seed to the worst 2 seed (which implies they are the 8th ranked team in the country). I could even see trying to make the argument that the 2 seeds are ranked geographically so they don't have to travel as far ... and that would be fine ... except that Dook isn't in the Midwest! So stop with the nonsense already ... declare your four 1 seeds and leave it at that. Everything else will play out on the court.
4. Stop favoring mid-majors with NCAA at-large tournament bids. Yes, I get that mid-majors make everything more interesting and everyone loves a good upset. And I know that over the last few years their overall tournament performance has been improving. But here's the problem ... when was the last time any team outside the BCS Conferences actually won March Madness? What, you can't remember? Here's your answer ... UNLV ... in 1990! That was 23 years ago. And before that? Texas Western (now known as UTEP) in 1966!!! Everyone needs to get a clue ... mid majors don't win championships! And it's not because they don't have the opportunities ... they just can't get it done. Yes, Butler was close to the miracle 2 years ago against Dook. But close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and my chances of hooking up with Mila Kunis the first time I meet her.
5. Luther Vandross sings One Shining Moment when the final buzzer sounds. No offense to Jennifer Hudson, stop messing with a good thing. Luther wasn't the first, but he was the best. Leave it alone.
Before this season started, I picked Louisville to win it all (don't believe me ... ask my Dad ... he's the 64 year old man living in South Florida ... you can't miss him). Tomorrow night, we find out if I was right. Don't be surprised if the game goes to overtime either ... Michigan is no push over. When the clock hits all zeroes though, I like my prediction to be cutting down the nets (even Kevin Ware, broken leg and all) ...