Thursday, March 15, 2007

NCAA INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT - THE BIGGEST DANCE

Last night bubble darling Syracuse beat nobody’s darling Southern Alabama 79-73. The Sun Belt’s Eastern Division regular season champs led the Cuse for most of the first 30 minutes, but the Orange Men got it going in the final 10 minutes to put it away. Props for the new Nike unis (still haven’t seen anybody wear the long sleeved version), and the Cuse wore the alternative ones that said ORANGE on the front. Cool. Also props to Orange Nation which turned out 16,000 strong for a game that has averaged about 4,500 elsewhere. Clemson and Florida State turned out home crowds of 3,500 and the Drexel fans were so offended by the Selection Committee only 2,400 showed up for the NC State game.

So did Syracuse belong in the NCAA? Yes. Did South Alabama belong in the NCAA? Also yes. Yesterday we advocated expanding the Big Dance another 16 teams. We were wrong. (There, we said it. Alert the media.) The NCAA tournament needs to expand by 32 teams. How? Easy.

The NCAA has slightly less money than Bill Gates and slightly more than Mark Cuban. So the NCAA buys the NIT. Cash. Simple as that. In the end who really cares about the NIT as an entity? Answer: The NIT and Madison Square Garden. Keep the pre-season tournament in place – in fact, you might even expand it. Keep the Garden in the rotation. All’s well.

Fold the 32 teams from the NIT into the NCAA Invitational Tournament. Why? Simple. There are 24 teams in the 32 team NIT field with more than 20 wins. It’s a quality field and almost all of the teams could make a good case for being in the Bigger Dance.

The logistics are really pretty simple too. The top 8 seeds in each of the 4 NCAA brackets as they exist now get a bye. The other 32 play the 32 who are currently in the NIT. This happens on Tuesday when the traditional 65 v. 64 game takes place for the side of the bracket that plays on Thursday, and on Wednesday for the side that plays on Friday.

Viola! The tournament is expanded by 32 teams and one full round without changing the dates of the tournament which would impact arenas already selected for future Final Fours, etc. Teams would continue to have great incentives to win in the regular season so they would get a first round bye. The Cinderellas could still get in with a conference tourney win. If a team like N.C. State can play their way in with a ridiculous late run through their conference tournament so be it. If so, they would have to play five games in six days which is exactly what they just did.

Of course, playing one more game would cause tremendous academic trauma to the student athletes, but I’m sure the high and mighty NCAA could come up with some sort of counseling, and/or an investigation to resolve the problem.

Of course, this may be mitigated by the simple fact that one more round of the NCAA tournament will make the regulatory bureaucrats out in Kansas a whole BUNCH MORE MONEY. (emphasis added.)

There. All is right in the world. Anybody got Myles Brand’s number?

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