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The Afternoon Extras: Two Reasons Not To Expand NCAA Tournament

Mar 15, 2010, 1:51 PM EDT

Eh, so here we have the Extras for Monday. They’re a little late as you may have noticed, which is why we scrapped the morning portion and went with afternoon. We’re clever like that around here. Anyway, with March Madness right around the corner, we thought we’d look at one of the major developments about the tournament and give our take on the matter. 

1. Watered down playoffs

Here’s an experiment you can do at your own desk. Pull out your NCAA Tournament bracket. Read through the schools and count how many teams have zero shot at winning a National Championship. Whatever your own criteria is for determining which teams have no chance at all, that number will inevitably be 30 at the minimum, and I think that’s being generous. Either way, we agree half the field already isn’t qualified to be there.

So why expand? If all they’re really denying these bubble teams is the opportunity to play a few extra, meaningless games, which should not be confused with competing to be number one, what is really the point? The first couple rounds are watered down already. There are always a handful classic upsets, and those are fun to watch, but the it’s hard to argue the drama will still be there the first time Penn State defeats George Mason on a buzzer beater for the right to play top seeded North Carolina. Awesome!

And while we’re on the topic of “bubble” teams, let’s make it clear what that term mens exactly. They are the same as All Star “snubs” or athletes who belong in the “Hall of Great.” People enjoy making lists, and once a list is completed, we need a list of the things that it could be argued should be on that list. Once we’re finished picking 65 teams, everybody wants to know who was 66. That doesn’t mean the entire structure of the tournament needs to be uprooted to accommodate Illinois. It’s just human nature.

2. Complicated brackets

I don’t follow college basketball too closely, so when it comes time to fill out my bracket, there are automatically a few schools I’ve never even heard of, let alone seen play. The whole process is a crapshoot for a casual fan. As soon as somebody hands me a sheet and there’s twice as many games to pick, PEACE! Oh yeah, I could just guess like everybody else, but why bother at that point? At least if you hit the Power Ball, you never have to work again.

And if it’s too complicated for me to undertake the arduous task of choosing names out of a hat, how is Betty at the office going to handle it? Imagine trying to explain to somebody who has never watched sports in their life what a bye is. In the unlikely event they figured it out, it’s going to make the entire process feel more daunting than it used to be, causing some people to conclude it’s not worth the effort, diminishing interest in the event overall.

Another set of the population they are alienating are the visually impaired. I happen to be blessed with incredible eyesight, so I can’t really sympathize with those of you who wear reading glasses, but I would imagine it can be a nuisance squinting to view all the names on a piece paper that was printed by the 20-year-old copy machine at the office. It’ll take a magnifying glass to fill that thing out.

In all seriousness, why mess with something that’s as perfectly symmetrical as the tournament is? What could be more democratic than 64 teams ranked 1-64 (forget the play-in game) vying to be the last team standing? As soon as you add byes and change the formula for the sake of a few extra teams, you’re taking the chance that unforeseen flaws will pop up, or it will alter the competition just enough that it’s somehow not as fun.

The only benefit I see is more money is involved, which is why this will get pushed through no matter what the fans want.

LINKS

7. Matt Stairs, now camping with the Padres, is one pinch hit home run away from tying the Major League record. Here’s hoping the Phillies legend makes his mark on baseball history as well. [Yahoo! Sports]

6. The Sixers will fire their head coach, and maybe even their general manager, but the product on the court will not improve much or at all. Talk about stating the obvious. [CBS Sports]

5. Examining a realignment plan for Major League Baseball that would potentially separate the Yankees and the Red Sox, or perhaps even allow teams to change divisions based on their economical needs. How ’bout they just institute a salary cap? [St. Petersburg Times]

4. Andy Martino tells us Kyle Kendrick is doing the most important thing he can to regain the success he experienced in his rookie season: he’s growing up. No doubt about that last part. By the way, give it up for another 4 innings of shutout ball on Sunday. [Inquirer]

3. Every Big East team has some flaws, and for Villanova, its their inability to defend. Given some of their recent performances and their lack of reliable scoring options, I’m not seeing a long stay in the tournament. Sorry. [Sporting News]

2. For once, spending didn’t get the Cowboys in trouble. In preparation for an uncapped where player movement would be limited, Dallas came into the new league year leading the NFL in dollars committed to 2010. They have to be concerned somebody could steal Miles Austin though, who remains a restricted free agent. [Pro Football Talk]

1. Addressing the rumor that would swap Ryan Howard with Albert Pujols, which Ruben Amaro calls completely bogus for the record. What exactly would be the benefit for the Cardinals, who like the Phillies, would still need to negotiate a new deal after 2011. [Finger Food]

COMMENT OF THE DAY

Flyers do get a chance for revenge though against the Rangers when they wrap up the season with a home & home against them. My bet is that the Flyers will have a real shoot to knock the Rangers out of the playoffs and that would be really sweet.

- MG

COMMENT OF THE WEEK

I expected a 3 for Nova and a 4 for Temple, considering the conferences they’re in, but this shake-up shows just how much the weigh conference schedule and strength.

Nova did have the same record as last season, despite the rough finish against heavyweight competition (4 of those losses against top 3 seeds in the overall bracket), and they had a #3 seed last year.

Temple can’t say the same about their schedule. Yea, yea…they beat Nova for once, but Fernandez doesn’t go off if Redding is on him like glue.

Overall, Temple’s seeding sucks in that bracket. Wisconsin, and Kentucky for possible 2nd/3rd game matchups? Not favorable. Nova has a real nice seeding in comparison, with a possible Duke rematch to decide the region.

May all Philly teams represent us well.

- Benjamin

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