The official brackets for the NCAA Men’s Basketball tourney have been announced. I won’t bother to redraw them here – they should be all but unavoidable in other sources.
There is, as usual, great wailing and gnashing of teeth about who got in and who got snubbed. I don’t have an opinion about any of that. But there is little or no discussion about some of the worst features of the bracket. Gee, I can hardly wait for the big game between Virginia and U. Maryland Baltimore County. I’m glad it doesn’t conflict with Duke v. Iona, which should be a bark burner! Shades of Bambi v. Godzilla.
As promised, I made a hypothetical draw that avoids such silliness.
I kept each team in the region the NCAA put it in, except that I had to move LIUB from the East to the South to balance the brackets. MME, MMMidW, MMS, MMW.
There are some tough draws in my hypothetical bracket. Virginia would probably face Kentucky in the third round – in the official bracket, that can’t happen until the fourth round. But unless your team got such a tough draw, it seems obvious to me, at least, that my tourney would be much more fun to watch than the official one. And it should also be more fun to play, at least for most teams.
Take U.M.B.C., which made a thrilling buzzer beater to upset Vermont and win their first trip to the “big dance” as champions of the America East Conference. What’s their prize? – they get to play number one Virginia. Don’t you think they’d rather play Georgia State, as they do in my draw. And don’t shed a tear for Virginia, either – they get an actual bye, rather than a virtual bye (thrashing U.M.B.C. in the second round).
I expect that there would be howls of protest if the NCAA decided to draw a more sensible bracket. But they wouldn’t last long. Some die-hard traditionalists might never forgive them, but everyone else, especially including the networks that get to broadcast better games more sensible distributed through the tourney, would quickly get used to the new pattern.
4 thoughts on “Remaking March Madness, Part III”
So about Virginia’s “virtual bye”…
OK, so it finally happened – a 16 seed beat a 1 seed.
I watched the game, and enjoyed it as much as anyone, or at least would have but for the feeling that someone would interpret this as negating my point about the NCAA’s bad brackets. But I stand by my critique.
The television commentators were way over the top in describing the game as one of the greatest upsets of all time n any sport. It was bound to happen sooner or later, and in fact it probably should have happened a couple of times before now. You have to discount what sportscasters say, of course – their whole job is to try to make you feel that there’s deep significance in the contests they ask you to watch. But the reaction here, I think, was extreme. It was as if they were trying to say, “see – these 1 v. 16 matchups aren’t ALWAYS a waste of time after all”. They’re right – not ALWAYS. But the reaction wouldn’t have been nearly as strong but for the fact that everyone knows that such games are ALMOST ALWAYS a waste of time.
I think the game would have been just as interesting and entertaining, at least of itself, if it had happened in some later round. It would have been less astonishing, I suppose, because by that time we’d have known how good UMBC could be after having watched them knock off some other higher-rated teams.
It’s part of the charm of this sort of tourney that every once in a great while some little team will shine unexpectedly. But I still think it would be better to let that happen, if it’s meant to, in later rounds, after the little teams have a chance to play an entertaining game or two against each other.