Monday, July 12, 2010

NCAA unveils new NCAA tournament format


— March Madness is about to get a little bit bigger.

The NCAA unveiled its plans for the newly expanded 68-team men’s basketball tournament Monday: Beginning next March, eight teams will play early the opening week in a “First Four” round, with the winners advancing to games on Thursday or Friday.

Two of the early games will match the tournament’s lowest seeds, Nos. 65 through 68. The other two games will include the last four at-large qualifiers.

The format appears to be a compromise. Including the lowest at-large teams will probably prevent mid-majors from being over-represented in the first round, but it could also mean that two teams from bigger conferences — those generally seeded between 11th and 13th — will be out before the tournament really gets going.

“You’re not going to come up with the perfect model,” committee chair Dan Guerrero said. “You’re not going to come up with a model that is going to appease every constituency out there. But we felt that this model provided the opportunity to do something special for the tournament.”

The NCAA announced in April that it would add three teams to the field, the first expansion since the tournament went from 64 teams to 65 in 2001 after going from 48 to 64 in 1985.

It was a hotly debated decision, with critics saying the tournament is already as close to perfect as any collegiate championship can be. Some pointed to Butler’s run to last season’s championship game and George Mason’s Final Four run in 2006 as examples of parity.

The NCAA decided against a larger expansion to 80 or even 96 games. Still, its new 14-year, $10.8 billion television package with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting not only ensures that every game will be televised but gives the NCAA sole authority to expand again.

All four of the first-round games will be broadcast on Turner’s truTV cable channel.

There has been only one early “play in” game since 2001, when the expansion to 65 teams essentially added a 34th at-large team. Now, there will be 31 automatic bids and 37 at-large bids.

“Those teams and what would be the 34th at-large team would create better drama, if you will, for the tournament,” Guerrero said.

The at-large teams will be seeded where they would normally be placed in the bracket, meaning a first-round game between two No. 10 seeds would result in the winner advancing to play a No. 7 seed.

“I think some people are going to look at it and say it looks like a compromise,” said Laing Kennedy, a retired Kent State athletic director who is on the men’s basketball committee that developed the new format. “What we look at is that it really does preserve the integrity of the 31 automatic qualifiers.”

The NCAA said there could be games on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tuesday winners would play Thursday and the Wednesday winners would play Friday.

The committee decided against making the lowest eight at-large teams or the lowest eight overall seeds to play their way into the final 64.

“In the end, we selected a format that we felt allows us to break new ground,” Guerrero said. “We are excited about the concept of the First Four, and we are really pleased with where we wound up and think that it would add value to the tournament as we move forward.”

Guerrero and NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen noted that three of the four at-large teams wouldn’t have qualified at all under the 2010 format.

Still, they said the committee was sensitive to the fact that some big-name teams could exit shortly after the brackets are filled out.

“We took that into consideration,” Guerrero said. “That would have been the consideration if all eight at-large teams had been a part of the ’First Four.’ The expanded tournament allowed for three new at-large teams to get into the tournament. We felt it was appropriate since we had a 68-team model, that those three teams be a part of that equation, along with the 34th at-large team.”

There was also concern that the new additions will always be smaller schools. Since 2001, a school from the Southwestern Athletic Conference has been sent to the early “play in” game five times.

Dates and locations for the first-round games have not been determined. Dayton, Ohio, which has hosted the early game since 2001, is under consideration to host all four “First Four” games.

“Dayton has been a great venue and a great site for the opening-round game, and we anticipate discussions relative to Dayton continuing in that regard,” Guerrero said. “However, as the committee looks at the possibilities of the future, there could be a number of other scenarios that could come into play. We are certainly looking at Dayton as the venue for the First Four.”


keith horinek 12 years, 4 months ago

I still think the bottom 4 teams should play each other and the two winning teams should play the top two seeds. If you put two 10 seeds together you will always get complaints from the loser that it was too evenly matched of a game to be able to advance.

knightmare34 12 years, 4 months ago

That is what will happen. The bottom four teams overall (seeded 65-68) will play to advance to play the top two teams overall (like the opening round game has been in the past). That eliminates 2 teams. In addition, the last four at-large teams will play for the right to get into the round of 64, like a one-game playoff for those last bubble teams. I like it (as much as I could like anything more than 64).

Jonathan Allison 12 years, 4 months ago

so say that of the "last four in" one is deserving a 10 seed, two deserve a 12 seed, and one deserves a 14 seed. How do you pair the teams and where do you put the winners. If you have a team worthy of a 10 playing against a team worthy of a 14, do they decide where the winner's going to go before the game or after the game, thus they can't release the rest of the bracket till after the "first four"?

Overall, I like what they're trying to do. I am just curious how they're going to pull it off.

JayCeph 12 years, 4 months ago

Slightly off topic but related to KU: I have no idea how Chapel Hill got on this list and Lawrence isn't anywhere in the top 100. A travesty at best...

Tuskin 12 years, 4 months ago

Alaska and Hawaii seem to have been overlooked, too.

jhawktop 12 years, 4 months ago

No matter the format, someone needs to spread the word to NOT WATCH THESE 4 GAMES!! The more successful these TV revenues are the more likely we are headed for a 96-team tourney, which no fan really wants. Please join me in boycotting these games!

CougIsLJW 12 years, 4 months ago

Not sure about the reasoning for going half-and-half. First of all, any team that actually accomplished something(i.e., winning a conference tourney)should get a pass to the round of 64. Second, if they want this "First Four" to max-out at the ticket window, the last eight at-large schools are going to have the best shot since they should have larger fan bases than seeds 65-68.

Martin Rosenblum 12 years, 4 months ago

The impact of this will be felt more at the NIT level than at the Big Dance. The past couple of years, there have been traditional bball icons in the NIT due to their rebuilding cycles. Those teams may now become the #65-68 teams or the last qualifiers with the at-large status in the NCAA Tournament.

A lot of this can be attributed to the OAD's impact on the college game. Live by a one-season-wonder and die by the same! Recruit for a particular season's results and it will haunt you (UK).

Hey, Colorado and Nebraska could become perenial at-large teams in their new conferences with this setup compared to never going to the Big Dance the way it has been. Maybe they knew something!

Jeff Coffman 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm sorry...but they weren't doing much in the Big XII either...I'm glad they are gone.

stravinsky 12 years, 4 months ago

I'm just happy they didn't go to 96. I'm somewhat against expansion in the first place, but especially at that magnitude.

The NCAA contradicts itself constantly when making these postseason decisions. It's infuriating that they don't want to do a college football playoff because of 1) student academic concerns (We've seen how much THAT really matters to them) and 2) it would decrease the meaning of the bowls. Yet they seem to have no qualms about expanding the NCAA basketball tournament, both when it comes to academics and also in regards to meaning of the tournament. If the goal is to crown a champion, we need make no changes. No team seeded lower than 8 has ever made it to the finals (Villanova, 1985). The lowest seeded team to ever make it to the Final Four was LSU, an 11 seed, in 86. If our goal is to simply pat teams on the back for having a good - scratch that - okay year, then at least be honest about it. Don't hide behind the students, NCAA, admit that the changes are happening because you want more TV revenue. As we've seen, that is what is truly important.

I fear that the 96 team expansion is inevitable. When that occurs, it'll no longer be the exception for teams below .500 in their conference to make the big dance -- this will become the norm. On a good year, the Big 12 (well... if it had retained 12 teams...) could send nine. The Big East? I'd say with 96 teams, it would be feasible for them to send 11 or 12 depending on the year. Absurd.

I suppose this is no different than the 6-6 team bowl games that start out the season. Beat four cupcakes, go 2-6 in the conference, and go have a fun time at the Independence Bowl or Alamo Bowl or whatever. Mediocrity is celebrated. I can cope with that, I suppose. But if we are to expand to 96 teams with no regards to the very reasons that are used as reasons why a college football championship playoffs (so many modifiers there) cannot occur, the NCAA needs to get off their high horse about putting the athletes first.

National Cash for Athletics Association.

Chris Shaw 12 years, 4 months ago

Watched Darnell Jackson tonight for the Bucks. Looked pretty darn good. Put a good center around Jackson and he could do some serious damage on the boards. Maybe Bogut will be that man. Jackson had 17 points on 8 of 15 unofficially. Here is the box score.

I didn't see the game, but Russ Rob also had 17 points for the D-League select team that lost to Phoenix. He was 3 of 7 from the field, but 9 of 13 from the FT line. Here is the box score.

Redlandsjhawk 12 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the report. Always good to hear.

jaybate 12 years, 4 months ago

Part One

"Expanding the NCAA Tournament and Infinite Jest"

Expanding the tournament a little, or a lot, would not be noteworthy, at all, were it not for how egregiously disingenuous the NCAA's public statements appear on the subject.

Coincidentally, I am at long last getting around to reading "Infinite Jest" written in the mid 90s by David Foster Wallace, a long time depressive who finally took his life in the last year or so.

It is a great and achingly painful black comedy of addiction to drugs and entertainment. in which Wallace's depressed, medicated,genius and tennis player, Hal Incandenz, cannot help but experience life as if life itself were an entertainment. Hal has that extraordinary quality that highly medicated manic depressives have of talking about everything, without ever really connecting deeply to anything. It is also about a TV show called Infinite Jest that is so addictive that once persons start watching it, they cannot stop, but that is a digression in this context (or perhaps not).

IJ is a harrowing book actually, one I am not sure I will be able to bear to finish. Regardless, at the beginning Hal undergoes an interview to try to be picked for tennis scholarship to the University of Arizona and all those persons interviewing him seem increasingly to be performing with near epic disingenuousness. During the interview Hal has a nervous breakdown, so we can not know exactly how disingenuous the school's performing interviewers are and how much of the sensation of same is attributable to Hal's depression and nervous breakdown. The author cunningly never tells us either, but leaves unmistakable that each require the other in order for the drama of disingenuousness to play out.

In other words, they really are performing disingenously and Hal really is depressed and cracking.

The underlying question seems to be: is the world performing disingenously, because people are so depressed and near to cracking that you have to minimize the downside of situations with disingenuousness, or is Hal being made sick and depressed because the world is performing disingenuously, or both?

knayte 12 years, 4 months ago

Um, kind of weird to see a review of Infinite Jest here. But finish the book; by the end Hal's nervous breakdown will be explained (in a sense).

Such an amazing book. I get chills thinking about it. Unlike anything I've ever read before.

jaybate 12 years, 4 months ago

Part Two

Having known several persons in real life with clinical depressions, and burdened by shot nerves and a cornucopia of meds, I know Infinite Jest is not an infinite jest. It is the brilliant cry of a deeply depressed person caught up in the actute watchfulness of the heavily medicated person in a world that is losing many of its bearings because of the flood tide of media that drenches all of us.

Hal Incandenza of Infinite Jest is Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye, if Holden were in his late teens and afflicted with acute depressions, plus about 20-30 more IQ points.

What has this to do with the NCAA?

The NCAA has apparently left the genuine business of regulating amateur sport for universities serving student athletes, and has entered the disingenuous business of valving money from TV contracts and a post season tournament played by quasi-professional athletes that aren't really getting paid a rational share of what they are generating. Every time an NCAA official moves his lips, he/she appears as disingenous as most characters in Infinite Jest.

Am I depressed and playing the watching role of Hal Incandenza?

Not yet.

But if I try to take the NCAA seriously much longer, I may become depressed and begin to watch them perform and ask for a lorazipam and some ritalin.

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