Let the hate mail commence... (please send all emails to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Did I shock you? Are you crazy yet? Freaked out? Have I blown your mind? If so, good. If not, well...good too.
The simple fact of the matter is, we at ETSF represent who you all are. Hardcore sports fans. However, I truly believe that we are more than just a fan, you see that would entail us to be a "fanatic" and I don't know about you but, in the words of The Great Harry Edwards, I take my sports a bit more seriously that to be a fanatic about something. We're connoisseurs of sport, and we have an intrinsic ability to appreciate what goes on between those lines. So I ask that you take all of that into consideration when you realize that the NCAA is not making this choice for us. They are making this choice for the casual fan. Why does the NCAA want to expand their greatest product, in this case March Madness, from 64 to 96 teams? Forget about what they SAY is their reasoning, here are the true facts.
1. The NIT Is Irrelevant & Doesn't Make Money - When was the last time you actually watched an NIT game and actually cared about the outcome? Never, never in life. Now, I could understand if your team was in the NIT, then the circumstance is different. However, you have major venues that do not make money from hosting the NIT, the networks aren't receiving any ROI (return on investment) from their marketing because...no one's watching. Plus, you basically have teams that are playing to see who is the 66th best team in college basketball. Is that a title you really want to brag out? I didn't think so.
2. What's The Difference Between #32 & #96? - Not much, in fact how ridiculous is the bubble anyway? How can you logically and realistically decide who the last at-large team in the tournament should be? Well, I know what your thinking..."Ed, even if you expand to 96 teams you'd still have folks complaining on who the 96th vs. 97th best team in the land is!" To a degree that is correct, however its much different when you've now allowed the regular season champion from the Sun Belt and its #2 seed who went 23-7 this year (when in the field of 64 only one team would make it) versus trying to decide who the 3rd best Patriot League team is compared to the 9th best Big 10 team. Now that's ridiculous.
So look at the rankings...take the #32 vs. #96 team in the RPI. You'd get Wake Forest (19-9) vs. Harvard (20-7). ACC vs. Ivy. Harvard does have a quality win over Boston College, and played UConn & Georgetown tough in non-conference games and finished 3rd in their conference. Wake, who would be a #9 seed in a 65-team tourney, is the 5th best team in the ACC and have played lethargic basketball at times of the season. You telling me Harvard wouldn't AT LEAST have a chance at beating Wake?
#3. Casual Fans = Ticket Sales = TV Ratings = Win for NCAA - Please understand this, the Super Bowl doesn't receive those absurd ratings because of YOU! They receive those ratings because your mama and her friends watch the Super Bowl. People who on any other random sporting event day would have no reason to watch, now have another reason. If the tourney expands to 96, that means more fan bases get to watch their team play for something meaningful. Think about the teams on the bubble; Washington (Seattle), Ole Miss/Miss. State (the South), Seton Hall/Rhode Island (Northeast), Illinois (Chicago), Georgia Tech (Atlanta). Those are all major markets with teams who have fan bases that will travel. That means more money for the visiting sites, more people across the nation watching the games, and more teams that now have a chance at it all.
#4. One Shining Moment - Let me say this, this will not have any effect on some of the elite teams in college basketball, so the "purity" of the game really will not be affected. Plus, it gives us TWO MORE DAYS of March Madness! This is a good thing! We all yearn for the tourney to get here, and then it leaves as soon as it came. Prolonging it for two days won't hurt, and you're gonna watch it regardless. Plus, we know how this thang works...there will be a miracle team that will come from nowhere and make a magical run. We all remember the first time Gonzaga made a deep run, same with Tulsa, Siena, Xavier, and other programs. Think how epic it was when we watched VCU and the Eric Maynor show come alive before our very eyes. Most importantly, George Mason, who almost didn't even make the tourney if they hadn't have squeaked out the conference title.
One shining moment gives 32 more teams that opportunity. Think about it this way, in any other league's playoff format almost HALF of the teams get a chance to make the playoffs. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs (53%), in the NFL 12 of 32 teams make the playoffs (38%), in MLB its only 8 of 30 (27%). In college basketball? Only 65 out of 347 teams make the tournament. That percentage is just 19%. If you increased it to 96 teams you only increase the percentage to 27%, same as baseball. Remember that the tourney was at one point only THIRTY-TWO TEAMS! Just not that long ago, in the 80's it was that way. Now we're not trying to give ribbons of participation around here, but at the same time when such a small percentage of teams get the opportunity it isn't the worst thing in the world to sweeten the pot a little.
Negatives of 96? What are your true negatives of expanding to 96 teams?
Is it because you just like things the way they were? I can understand that, I hate it when Facebook changes every 6 months but you've got to evolve with the times.
Is it because you think the regular season would be dead? Well guess what...the ratings would tell you that the regular season is already dead. WE watch college basketball in November, casual fans don't. Remember what I said, this isn't about us...its about the casual fans. The more you understand this concept, the easier your sports life will be.
96 won't be so bad, we get more important basketball and more folks will feel included. I'll take it.
(Now lets see if my boss will give me 4 days off of work instead of 2 days...)