In Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sanke’s desire to take a “fresh look” at March Madness, here are some things we could improve on if we really, really tried.
* Grand Canyon
* Stephen Curry’s jump
* Michelangelo’s “David”
* The Eiffel Tower
You may have come across a few other examples of perfection, though not many. And just like you wouldn’t put a steak on the South Rim or Alexander Hamilton to survive Aaron Burr’s gun to stop Hamilton II and make another mint, you better have a good reason to cheat with the NCAA. Competition.
Is it the 2021-22 BYU Cougars? If the NCAA tournament were to expand to 80 teams, Sankey suggested in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde last week, such a team would be fighting for an at-large bid.
The Cougars have played eight games against teams that have reached the NCAA. They lost six of them. They lost four more to teams that didn’t perform at home. They averaged No. 60 in performance-based metrics, representing the committee’s greatest career on the team sheet, and ranked No. 64 in predictive metrics. Does that sound like an NCAA tournament must-have team?
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Sankey’s support for an expanded field was justified, first, by the experience of the Ole Miss baseball team. Using an example from a sport whose shape and format is completely different is disappointing to say the least. Ole Miss was considered the last team in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, but won the College World Series.
“If the last team can win the national championship and it’s in the 30s and 40s from an RPI or NET standpoint, does our approach favor a national championship run?” Sankey for SI.
Seriously. He said this. Suppose the 17th-best team in college football has a reasonable shot at surviving a four-round playoff and winning the CFP? Because last year was Wake Forest. Who would have thought the Deacs would have beaten Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan and Georgia in one month?
Of course, that comparison isn’t germane to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. And nothing ever happens in the College World Series. The seventh-best gymnast in the world has no chance of beating Simone Biles on her best day. The worst team in Major League Baseball can win a series, as the Washington Nationals did against the LA Dodgers a few weeks ago. It’s an insult to think that college basketball sees what happens in another sport.
In the year Since its introduction in the 2011 First Four, two teams that were picked among the finalists and forced to play that extra game advanced to the Final Four: 2011 VCU and 2021 UCLA. And it is dangerous to draw any conclusions about Bruns’ experience during the outbreak. In a normal year, they can be very high on the bracket.
In that span, only nine major-league teams with double-digit seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16, just two to the Elite Eight and two to the Final Four. No one has won the national championship. There is no significant risk that the championship could be excluded.
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We can’t get the fifth college football team on the field in a legitimate regular season, and he worries about the 69th college hoops team.
There is concern among those involved in major league expansion about getting their teams through March Madness, but the simple answer is to play better basketball against better opponents.
In the year In 2018, the Big Ten Conference placed just four of its 14 members in the 68-team field. The following year, the league expanded its regular season schedule to 20 games, eliminating weaker non-conference opponents from the team schedule.
Improved performance helped the Big Ten rise from the No. 5 RPI league in 2018 to No. 2 in 2019 and double its number of NCAA bids to eight. If the 2020 NCAA Tournament were contested, the online bracket matrix suggests there would be 10 Big Ten teams in the field. The 2021 and 2022 tournaments will each feature nine Big Ten participants. In the year In 2011, the last time a 16-team major league franchise was held, the Big East fielded 11 of its 16 members.
Smarter scheduling and better performance led the SEC to average 6.4 in 2017-22, up from 3.6 in 2012-16. They don’t have room for nine or 10 bids from each power conference, but that’s why they play the game. If the SEC gets them, they’ll celebrate on Election Sunday.
In the final projected bracket I presented to Fox Sports ahead of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, the 67 teams wound up in the official field chosen by the selection committee. I ran into an error as the requirement was to identify the teams playing in March Madness. I had Texas A&M in the field instead of Notre Dame.
To some extent, however, it may be the committee’s fault.
As a result of 211 competitive predictions collected by Bracket Matrix — some from the likes of ESPN, CBS, The Athletic and Sports Illustrated and some not as high-profile — 200 picked the Aggies. Do you know how many Notre Dames they had? Can you believe 74?
But the reality is that the latest version of Madness can be fantastic at either or both. The identity of the 68th team has little bearing on what makes the tournament great, but the competition to be that team is a vital ingredient in fueling the regular season.
Sankey’s suggestion steals that doubt from the college basketball world. Last season Xavier entered February with a 15-5 record and every reason to believe it would compete for the NCAA Championship. The Musketeers, having lost seven of their next 10 games, entered the Big East Tournament looking for a win over a poor Butler team to realize what once seemed inevitable. They lost in overtime.
In an 80-team universe, that game would have been meaningless, at least. A significant expansion of the NCAA tournament doesn’t make March more compelling or important, but it does slow down the regular season. There is no way this sport will benefit.
There are two ways to say that Texas A&M should have been in the race in 2022. Because the Aggies are 15-2 at one point, then have lost nine of 10 games, including five at home and three straight. The impressive 7-1 finish should have gotten them into the field in my opinion and 199 other bracket analysts, but that horrible February left the decision up to the selection committee. The committee is made up of people, and people make mistakes.
Sankey did one here.
It should be left at that.