Debates about whether or not to expand the NCAA Basketball Tournament from its current field of 65 teams have intensified this spring.
Bloggers, fans and anyone else with a laptop computer have poured his or her two cents into the discussion.
The recent bill passed by the United States Congress to provide equitable healthcare to any American signaled a critical shift in the philosophy of lawmakers in this country.
President Barack Obama has endeared himself to the realm of sports fans stretching from Tampa to Spokane. In the past two years, he has made several cameos on ESPN’s “Sportscenter”, attended a number of sporting events (mostly around the nation’s capital), and on the night before he was elected, sharply advocated for a playoff system in college football.
After overseeing the most decisive change to his country’s law in decades, the president has etched his name in the legacy of modern world leaders.
After colluding with the legislative branch to pass such a heavily debated law, it’s only natural he should use his power for a much simpler task: expanding the big dance.
Should it move to 68 teams? Nah.
What about 96? Don’t think so.
124? Why stop there?
If the president wants to be truly consistent –a trait each of his predecessors strived to be, successfully or not – he should make an immediate motion to include all 347 teams.
Rejoice Chicago State University! Your six-win, 22-loss season won’t withhold you from the fruits of the postseason any longer.
Under this new plan, everybody wins.
Before we get ahead of ourselves and sign this bill into law, we should really look at why the tournament is held to only 65 teams today.
By allowing the 31 conference champions to automatically qualify for the dance, we reward the outstanding effort those teams put forth in becoming the absolute best in their respective leagues. If your program recruits good players, keeps them eligible, molds them into a strong team, keeps them out of legal trouble, and graduates them, you have a strong formula for success and an increased likelihood of punching a ticket to the dance.
This also includes the 34 best teams not included in the group of conference champions. By allowing other teams that worked very hard to create a strong team and succeeded, it creates an extremely competitive environment for the three-week spectacle that the tournament is in its current state.
No team that allowed players to join the order of power that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association illegally has the opportunity to play in the postseason.
Pay recruits to come to your school, and you’re toast. Allow your players to fall short of the (insanely lenient) academic requirements, and they are history.
But all that can change with the new era of American justice, which only makes sense to extend to the most entertaining month-long spectacle this country has to offer.
The tournament, which will now quintuple in size, comes with some further stipulations of course.
The non-conference season, including early-season tournaments that reward strong programs with increased revenue and exposure, must be eliminated. With a postseason that will take more than two months to complete, there is not enough time to allow those games to take place. The NCAA, and only the NCAA, will tell every team when and where each game will be played. No more scheduling your own opponents for the benefit of your players, fans, and university – that’s way too much freedom.
In addition, there will be no more sanctions handed down by the NCAA that would bar teams from playing in the tournament. Illegal recruiting will go unpunished, and academic failures will have no impact on a team’s standing with the tournament selection process. As long as you have enough players to suit up on the court, you’re in like Jonny Flynn.
The regular season will take place from mid-November, and conclude at the end of January.
Once that is complete, the field of 347 teams will be arranged based on a set of pre-existing criteria. It’s impossible to assume the Seeding Committee can see every team play. It would be unfair to the less exposed teams when they were put through the seeding process unless there was a list of specific criteria the committee had to follow when placing teams. The phrase “that’s why the games aren’t played on paper” will soon be rendered obsolete. It’s now statistical comparison at its finest.
Once the teams are placed in the field, there will be three weeks of preliminary play, in which the top 64 teams have no games, instead are rewarded with a lengthy idle period.
So, in essence, the teams that would currently be the only ones to make the field would now be forced to wait while other teams who never deserved to make the postseason before are given permission to see what the big dance is all about.
Does it matter that those teams are the only ones that really deserve to be playing? Not at all.
This is not your
father’s older brother’s America, after all. This is a nation where the playing field is even, and life’s regular season isn’t that important. The Syracuses and Kentuckys of the world would not have any motivation for winning upwards of 28 games during the year. In the end, everyone will be on the same grounds anyway.
Maybe now Chicago State can brag about winning an NCAA opening round game against Bryant University. At least it’s something more than simply being Kanye West’s (see: West’s multiplatinum album “College Dropout”) former school.
We are in the midst of an era of change in America, and here’s hoping the powers that be leave no stone unturned in revamping a country that has thrived as the world’s most powerful for more than two centuries.
*Ali Farokmanesh 2012!*