As the dust settles from a generally disappointing final game, we are able to reflect on the month-that-was. Let’s be honest, despite the let-down on Monday night, this was a great tournament. For the first time ever, every single game was televised. How great was that? March Madness will never be the same. There were plenty of great games and plenty of great story lines–VCU and Butler were the obvious great stories, but what about the jubilation of Morehead State after winning the biggest game in school history? or Richmond’s improbable run to the Sweet 16? or Derrick Williams vaulting himself onto the national scene and restoring pride to Arizona? Everyone is going to remember the ineptitude of the National Championship game, but hopefully once we get some distance, we’ll appreciate what this tournament gave us.
But nothing’s perfect. Here are three things I would change about March Madness if I were in charge:
1) I can’t express how much I hate the idea that we were calling the Round of 64 the “second round” because of the play-in round being played first. Look, all it does is confuse everyone. You have half the country calling it the first round and half calling it the second. Why are we making it so complicated?
2) Why does it seem like the 2-seeds this year were glad to get that they didn’t get 1-seeds? Let me explain. San Diego State was a team thought to be vying for a top seed this year. Where they could have been Pitt, having to play Butler in the second (or third?) round in Washington, DC, they instead were able to stay out west, playing in Tucson and Anaheim. Notre Dame was the same way, only having to drive a couple hours to Chicago for their first two games before getting ousted. What about Florida? They stayed close to home in Tampa for their first two games and only had to travel to New Orleans after that. Seems like Duke, while getting to play in Charlotte the first weekend, kind of got a raw deal playing out in Anaheim, even though they were supposed to be the 1-seed. I’m not sure I have a solution here, but something is off with this situation.
3) Is this a cop-out? My third thing that I’d change about the tournament is to stop changing things. Why do we have to continually mess with something that everyone loves? Did we really need to expand to 68 teams this year? And of course, the argument is going to be: well look at VCU, they wouldn’t have gotten in the tournament at all and they made the Final 4. My answer: so what? To me, that just shows how mediocre college hoops is becoming. There will always be Cinderella Stories in the tournament. VCU isn’t the first mid-major to go deep, and you know they won’t be the last–especially with how much turn over there is since such a large number of freshman leave after their first year. You know it is only a matter of time before another expansion–and then another, and another. It will only be a matter of time before the product is so diluted that we don’t even enjoy it anymore. Please, NCAA Tournament Committee–or whoever it is that makes these decisions–just leave it alone. If this thing expands to 96 teams like they speculated about last year, I’m out.