Remaking March Madness, part II

So how can the NCAA basketball tourney be improved? In a couple of ways.

First, it needs to make better use of its seven-round structure. Currently, the first round with its four play-in games is the only early round in which the conventional seeding system doesn’t poison most of the fixtures. So I’ll move more games from the very bad second round to the first.

And next, something needs to be done about the seeding. Here I’ll borrow from the wisdom that informs most professional tennis competitions to moderate the problems with seeding.

Here’s a revised bracket. It covers one of the four regions – the other three will work the same way: NewMM

The present bracket sends eight teams to the play-in round, and the other 60 all start in the second round. With my revised bracket, 24 teams go to the play-in round. 36 teams start in the second round, and eight get byes into the third round.

The seeding is tiered, with these tiers:

  1. Four number one seeds, one in each quarter;
  2. Four number two seeds, one in each quarter. These seeds are done as they are at present;
  3. Eight number three and four seeds. These are done as they are now, except that the seeds are drawn randomly, so that the three seed doesn’t always land in the same half-region as the two seed, but might just as well land in the same half-region as the one seed;
  4. 28 seeds, numbers 5 to 11 for each region, drawn randomly into the lines for teams beginning in the second round; and
  5. 24 seeds, numbers 12 to 17 in each region, drawn randomly into the lines for the first round.

The advantages are many. In current practice, the second round contains 32 games played over just two days. In my revised bracket, eight of those games move into the first round, which should allow fans to see more of what’s going on. And none of those games will be the silly #1 v. #16 matchups that the low-ranking team literally never wins. Not all of the games will be good ones, of course, but there will be several more competitive ones. A team that wins its own minor conference will have a real chance to win against another minor conference team.

Now, some will complain that they really like the current system because, every once in a great while, there will be a stunning upset, as when a #15 seed knocks off a #2. But those upsets, if they’re meant to happen, will still happen – they’ll just happen in a later round.

It can be difficult to visualize all of the benefits. So, once the 8-team field is set, I’ll draw those same 64 teams into my proposed brackets, and publish them here. I’m confident that nearly anyone who comes to the issue with an open mind will agree that my revised bracket would be much more entertaining watch.

3 thoughts on “Remaking March Madness, part II”

  1. In order to accomplish this, you would have to change the Pod system quite radically. You still have 4 Games for most Pods (1 Pod per Region having 5) but they’re now split with half being the standard format and the other being effectively a Ladder.

    This could solve one of my problems with the current Pod System: specifically that it puts 4 games PER VENUE on a Thursday or Friday. There’s a bunch of hand wringing over how that kills production in-and-of itself. My personal concern is that it makes the 1st round last from Noon until Midnight on the East Coast, which compounds the effect similar to “Super Bowl Sick-out”. Under your system, which has only 6 Second Round (currently 1st round) matchups per region, we could get that number down to a more manageable 3 games per venue that round.

    The first trick is that you have to convince the NCAA to move each site’s first game (or last game) from that Second Round to Wednesday’s First Round. The Thursday Regionals would get the Afternoon Play-Ins, while the Friday Regionals would get the Evening Play-Ins. The second trick is that you would have to convince CBS & Turner Sports to have a 9th Broadcast team operating from Dayton to cover the other 4 Play-Ins (2 of which would still have to be on Tuesday to allow for travel to the Thursday sites). The third trick is that you would have to convince Bracket Pools to count the First Four, and thus end the collection of entries at 3 PM EDT on Tuesday, instead of Noon EDT Thursday.

    If the 2nd trick couldn’t be accomplished, you could get a 2nd Play-In for the Friday sites, but that gives the Friday Regions more teams than the Thursday Regions. So you would probably have to keep the 2 Tuesday Dayton Play-Ins; which wouldn’t be a problem this year as the broadcast team would just hop on I-70 for Columbus; same with when Indianapolis and Cincinnati (I-75) host pods. Anywhere else would require the benefit of weather which, in the Great Lakes region in March…


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