Friday, April 2, 2010

March Madness Expansion?

It looks likely that the NCAA will expand the NCAA tournament for men's basketball from 64 teams to 96 teams next season. The reason is simple...added revenue. It will add two days to the tournament, and a total of 32 more games. It will also kill the NIT, it would seem.

This has the support of the coaches. Why? Because most coaches are judged by "getting in the NCAA tournament" or not. It's about job security.

Okay, great. But think about this? There are about 340 division one basketball programs. Now we're going to 96 teams in the tournament. That's nearly one-third of the programs, when before we had less than one-fifth. The significance of just "making" the tournament will be diminished greatly. Will there be any talk of the teams who don't make it? That is the "bubble" we hear so much about now? My prediction is that we'll hear a little about it just before and just after the selection show, but the noise will be a lot less. Why? Because there's a new bubble in town...

The bye. That's right, the bye. The top 32 teams in the tournament (what we currently know as seeds one through eight) will not have to play the first round. Instead, the bottom 64 teams will play one game for the right to play the top 32. Currently, just about the last thing anyone cares about as far as seeding is who are teams 29 through 32 and 33 through 36. Why? Because those are seeds eight and nine, and those two play each other in the first round of a 64 team tournament.

In the new system, however, that won't be the case. Who gets selected as 32 or less versus those just above that cut-off will be the new "bubble" discussion. Why? Because those who aren't in the top 32 not only have to play another game to win the whole thing, they now have to win three games in the first six days of the tournament instead of just two in four days like before to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

That's huge.

It's only going to take a couple years, if that, before people realize just how much lower your statistical and realistic chances are of winning the tournament as the 33rd or higher overall seed (anything 9th to 24th now). Sure, people currently feel like a 9th or higher seed isn't gonna get it done, but the difference now is that it just because EVEN HARDER to do what's already pretty unlikely. So the seeding cut-off will be huge. I predict it will be the new "making the tournament" bar that coaches are currently held to. Which means it just got HARDER for coaches to keep jobs, not easier.

All for money. *sigh*


Unknown said...

The new proposal also adversely affects teams that play in conferences that have season-ending tournaments. Now you're going to have perennial mid-packers like Clemson and NC State making it to the show and having to play Thursday and Friday (and maybe Saturday) and then hop on a plane to play again the following Tuesday. For an organization whose public face is "all about the student-athlete", they will have these kids out of class for a whole week. THAT doesn't sit well with me.

The Gnome of Zurich said...

I don't think 32 will become the new 64 (or really 48ish for at large teams in the current format).

The bye is huge no doubt, but the 9 seeds will have a fairly easy opening round game, while most all of the teams between 11 and 22 are going to face an opponent who is fairly close modulo mis-seedings.

In terms of chance to reach the S16, I have a suspicion that the drop from 9-10 and 10-11 will be almost as big as 8-9.

Think about the last teams selected at-large and the last teams selected for the NIT at large. How big a difference is there really?

I predict 21-22 seeds will win around 20-30% of the first round games. While the 23s and 24s will win more than they currently do as 15s and 16s vs the 1s and 2s, it still won't be often.

We'll also see a 16 (or 17) beating the 1, and it won't even be super rare, because the 16s will be much better teams.