March Madness, You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are

Jim Boeheim, Villain

Slow news days. Days when “Pardon the Interruption” is lined with stories about Pete Rose’s girlfriend and women’s basketball. Days when Denard Span makes headlines for picking off his mother with a foul ball similar to Mark Wahlberg in “Shooter.” Days when the worldwide leader remembers that they’re covering the World Cup in two months, so they throw up a story about Wayne Rooney being out for two weeks with a sprained ankle allowing Tony Kornheiser to make a “bahaha, I don’t even know what soccer is” joke.

Days like today, this remarkably unremarkable Wednesday, March 31, are filler days. Days when ongoing debates get stretched thinner than an Olsen twin.  College football SO needs a playoff.  Baseball would be SO much better with a salary cap. I REALLY wouldn’t draft that Tim Tebow in the first two rounds. Blah freaking blah freaking blah.

Can we please just get the Final Four, Opening Day and the Masters, here already?

Not until Saturday? Okay, that’s what I thought. Well, in the meantime, I’ll see how thin I can stretch a debate of my own.

Dear NCAA, please don’t screw up one of the few things that you do right. Promotion of the concept is more prominent and popular than ever. It is starting to become a certainty that the NCAA will soon expand the NCAA Basketball Tournament field from 64 teams to 96 teams.

Now before I begin, allow me to clarify what kind of Web site this is. Contrary to the popular belief that Sports Casualties only covers episodes of “Jersey Shore” and “Lost,” we are actually a sports blog. It’s just that people only tend to read SC when we write our rambling thoughts on those two shows.  That may have been what had you confused. Regardless, SC is no financial site, so the following rant is not at all based on the monetary issues that will soon make the tournament the basketball version of a battle royal.  Instead, the following is based on the overall quality of the Tournament, bracket gambling and my overwhelming hatred for whining bubble teams.

March Madness is one of the only perfect events in sports.  It is one of the few events that transcends from the die-hard fan to the casual fan to the person who doesn’t give a damn about basketball unless it’s March.  It combines a myriad of games into a manageable cluster, and CBS has officially mastered the art of broadcasting its system.

The Masters: Another perfect sporting event. Eight more days, eight more days.

The argument that the field needs to be expanded because worthy teams are being left out is ridiculous. Yes, I’m looking at you, Jim Boeheim.  Boeheim, one of the original proponents of expanding the Tournament, believes that expansion is more necessary now than ever.

“Connecticut was out of the Tournament, and they still may be out, but they’re a team that can win games in the Tournament,” Boeheim said. “That’s why we need an expansion.”

Those comments were made to the USA Today in February.

It’s college basketball. It is one of the sports in which major teams are most wide open for upsets. If that’s your judgment for how many teams there should be in the field, then we’re nearing a day of a 300-team tournament. Tournament selection isn’t about finding teams that “can win games,” it’s about finding teams that can win a national championship and including smaller teams that are able to qualify through conference tournaments. Elite teams should be featured in March, not teams that might be good.

For some reason, there is a belief that adding 31 teams will eliminate the “that team got snubbed” factor that makes at least one coach at a major program pout every year. News break, unless you somehow create a tournament that includes all 347 teams, there are going to be a few teams on the border that believe they should be playing on CBS. I can see Seth Greenberg going on Sportscenter and complaining that the selection committee failed to pick the best 96 teams in the country.

Bubble teams are always everyone’s favorite argument around the time of Selection Sunday. My question is when is the last time that you saw a bubble team get in the Tournament and make an impact? Better yet, how many times have you seen a bubble team not make the big boy bracket and then head off to the NIT for a first round home court loss to Manhattanville College?

My Bulls: An unfortunate first round NIT casualty.

Are bubble teams often better than the small conference champions that take “their spots” in the Tournament? Probably. However, every team enters the season knowing that they have to be great if they don’t want to have questionable hopes at the beginning of March.

Also, it is an undeniable fact that the major reason why the NCAA Tournament is so popular is bracket gambling. Almost everyone fills out a bracket the day after Selection Sunday, immediately garnering some strange feeling that they know what they are talking about. The only regular season college basketball games that I watched in their entirety this season were the two that I attended. But give me a pen and the back of a Tampa Tribune on Monday morning and I know more about the product than any ESPN bracketologist that you can name.

Ha! I scoff at Digger Phelps.

Brackets are a huge part of the Tournament. They are the only reason why many people watch. The current number of games is already a borderline excessive amount of predicting to do. Interest will surely drop off when 31 teams are added that the general public knows little about. Tinkering with this perfect gambling formula could damage the major appeal that March Madness carries.

It’s baffling to watch the last two weeks of competition and think that out of all the postseasons in sports, this is the one that needs to be changed. This has been one of the most entertaining NCAA Tournaments ever. It has shown the country that the current Tournament field is perfect and exposed the fact that any changes will be solely made in the name of money, not quality college basketball.

I can’t wait to see No. 96 raise hell in March. Make it rain, NCAA.

In the words of Robbie Hilson, and to a lesser extent, Akon: Dolla’ dolla’ bills y’all!



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2 responses to “March Madness, You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are

  1. Strong post, and you hit on something that I’ve never thought about… What happens to this entire cottage industry of “bubble”? Adding 31 teams means that every relevant and semi-relevant team is getting in, barring a disaster. The part that I like about the BCS is that people get to argue about the snubs (admit it, it’s entertaining and you like to participate). Now there’s nothing to argue about… 96 will be a grim day for the likes of Joe Lunardi. When Pepperdine, Evansville and FIU are on the bubble, I dare say that the bubble is not worth discussing.

    It also totally takes the wind out of the major conference tournaments. When all but two of the Big East schools have already secured their spots, what’s the point? Basically, all the discussions will focus on seeding… “SETON HALL GOT A &*#%@!^ 14?!!”


    Also, I know we’re not CNBC, but the coaches want this – so the prevailing wisdom goes – so that they can more easily keep their jobs. I’m not buying this. I say a team like UCLA knows that their coach has had a shitty year when he gets the 80th overall seed in the tourney. Just like with major schools in bowl games. If you’re, say, Larry Coker and you take your team to a bowl in Idaho, you’re still getting canned.

    • bholt11

      I still think that there will be bubble complaints at 96. No, they won’t get the media attention that they get now because it will be Lipscomb sparking a bitchfest instead of Virginia Tech. I do enjoy the BCS discussion, but I also might be in the minority in that I would have less of a problem with college football keeping the BCS than I would college basketball going to 96. Yes, a bowl-based playoff would be ideal, but the teams that end up complaining are usually teams that could have earned their pay during the regular season and choked somewhere. Either that or they played in the WAC, scheduled no one out of conference and then whined about being an undefeated snub.

      Completely agree with you on the coaching thing. This will do nothing but decrease the prestige of making the tournament. Now making a bad seed will be grounds for release while, God forbid, making the NIT in this situation would be immediate career suicide.

      SC: Boosting site comments by commenting on our own stuff.

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