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A new era of March Madness

 

Seesaw Sports, where Dan Salem and Todd Salem throw down on the NFL, MLB, NBA and more. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate sports.

[Part one – Time to Dance]
[Part two – Madness in the NBA playoffs]
[Part three – A bitter sweet sixteen]

 

TODD:

At the end of last week I asked you about your thoughts on extending the NCAA Tournament into a multi-game format. Instead of pushing do-or-die stakes on the NBA playoffs, what if we went in reverse and stretched NCAA games into best-of-threes? The reason the NBA works so well is because the best teams often win and advance, leaving fans with the optimal matchups as the playoffs progress. This should be the goal in college as well.

Obviously changes would create problems logistically for student athletes and television, etc. However, I’m not concerned with that. Just from a basketball standpoint, I think the extension would improve the level of play in the tournament.

Right now, round two (the first set of weekend games) is the most exciting part of March Madness. Everyone loves upsets…kind of. Everyone loves Cinderellas…sort of. The belief that double-digit seeds rule March is a bit overblown. People enjoy upsets but complain endlessly about their brackets being ruined. A Cinderella story doesn’t really exist anymore with the leveling of the talent pool around the country. I mean Michigan State is a perennial powerhouse but when is the last time Tom Izzo brought in a five-star recruit? And how far did the top freshmen even get in this year’s tourney? Senior leadership and experience help to lessen the difference between Wichita State and Kentucky. Even though the freshmen won in that instance, the game was as close as it could possible have been.

I got a bit sidetracked but the point remains, upsets are kind of cool that first weekend. After that, we want the best teams playing. The Dayton-Stanford game this round is a perfect example of a matchup that seems cool as 10 and 11 seeds advance but then no one is interested in actually watching it take place.

If the bracket was expanded into a series of rounds, the upsets would remain, but it would give the best teams a fairer shake at advancing. As a basketball fan, that’s what I really want. Let North Dakota State and Mercer win a game for sure. But by playing a series, the Syracuses and Creightons, Dukes and whomever have a better chance of playing up to their potential and delivering the higher-caliber later rounds we actually want to see.

Tell me why this is silly. Why would improving the likelihood of the NCAA Tournament having better basketball games be a bad thing? Or agree with me because it’s the logical thing to do.

 

DAN:

Its logical to want better basketball games during the pinnacle competition of the NCAA basketball season. Yet expanding March Madness to best of three playoff style rounds does not make the actual games better. You are trading Madness for an increased probability of ‘better’ teams advancing and hoping we get better games in the later rounds. I LOVE your inclination, but a best of three for every matchup is too big. Plus, do you really want to see Dayton play Ohio State for two or three games? It was special the one time. Two or three times is not so special.

I have an alternative, in the grand fashion of point and counter point. Instead of turning the NCAA Tournament into best of three matchups, lets make the entire tournament double elimination. I see this is a far less logistical nightmare and we get to give our ‘better’ teams an opportunity to redeem themselves if they get upset early on. There are some holes in this as well, but let me make my case.

The tournament would be seeded the same way it is now and the regions would remain in tact. Every game still has high stakes, with the added wrinkle of double elimination (you have to lose twice to be eliminated). Our round of 64 games would play out and we would have the 32 teams advance as usual to play one another, the winners. The losers in each region then play each other, with the winners of those games advancing to play the losers of the round of 32. The sweet sixteen is in tact, with the losers from the round of 32 playing the still alive winners from the parallel bracket for the region…. Man this is hard to describe in writing, but it actually works out perfectly on paper. Two parallel brackets play out in each region.

By the time we reach the Final Four we are left with four teams that are undefeated, the Final Four, and then two teams per region with one loss. They play each other, with the winner facing the undefeated team from the region. In principal they could then play twice, until only one team remains from each region.

I also love the added possibility of two games between each Final Four matchup, and in the Championship round, depending on who advances with or without a loss.

Have we made March Madness too long? Too complicated? Or brilliantly amazing? The one HUGE problem with either the best of three format or the double elimination format are the bracket pools and gambling. Instead of picking one winner for each game, the difficulty changes completely. With a best of three everyone is inclined to lean on the higher seed prevailing. Less chaos. With a double elimination tournament the chaos is doubled, as you can still have upset after upset, yet now we are picking almost twice as many games.

Bottom line, the tournament can be made better and should with the loss of star college basketball players. America will eventually grow tired of a poor product, no matter how ‘exciting’ a buzz beater can be.

 

[If you missed Part one – Time to Dance]
[If you missed Part two – Madness in the NBA playoffs]
[If you missed Part three – A bitter sweet sixteen]

 
 

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