The NCAA has made your office's March Madness pool a lot more complicated this year, with a new 68-team college basketball tournament. Before the actual tournament even starts on Thursday, there will be four "play-in" games pitting two types of teams against each other: low-ranked schools which won their small conferences; and teams from larger conferences (like the Big 10) which had been on the edge of tournament eligibility. The winners will move on to the traditional 64-team field. The change is a response to complaints that some big schools had been unfairly shut out of the competition in the past, and is an easy way for the NCAA to make more money off extra games. But is it good for the tournament? (Watch an AP report about the tournament's seeding)
The NCAA is rewarding mediocrity: Oh perfect, jokes David Steele at AOL Fanhouse — "two more days' worth of games between teams staggering about trying to salvage underwhelming seasons." And the extra game and travel means these squads are likely to face a "summary execution by a high seed" in the actual first round of the tournament. If quality basketball is the goal, there's no point in including a "bunch of scrubs" who, even if they win their first game, will populate "the nether regions of the bracket."
"So, how's that 68-team field working for ya?"
Say goodbye to casual fans: "Filling out a bracket is supposed to be a solid way to waste an entire week at work," says Drew Magary at Deadspin. But now, with most pools ignoring the "annoying" play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday, "Thursday morning is the only time you CAN" complete the bracket, because the teams won't all be in place until then. NCAA betting was once "a clean affair" that attracted people who don't give a hoot about basketball. But with the introduction of three extra teams, "it's just unwieldy enough" to turn off casual fans.
"They ruined the Goddamn bracket"
The extra slots didn't even ease the selection process: "An expanded field did not make the decisions any easier for the NCAA tournament's selection committee," says the AP. If anything, the extra spots only made the selection process harder. Harsh critics included ESPN's Jay Bilas, who was so puzzled by the inclusion of some teams that "he questioned whether some committee members even knew a basketball was round."
"68-team field gives NCAA committee new challenges"