Monday, April 5, 2010

For The Washington Post - 'A basketball tournament only the NCAA would love'

INDIANAPOLIS - Arguably, there has never been a better NCAA men's basketball tournament than the one that ends tonight. From the very first games on the very first day there was one upset after another, one remarkable finish piling on another.

The championship game will be straight from "Hoosiers," the 1986 film based on the 1954 Indiana state championship won by tiny Milan High School over powerful Muncie Central. One finalist on Monday night in (naturally) Indianapolis is Butler. The other is Duke.

Duke is college basketball royalty, having competed in 15 Final Fours and winning three national championships. Butler had never been in the Final Four and came -- like Milan -- from virtual anonymity to compete for the championship. As luck would have it, Butler plays its home games on its campus at Hinkle Fieldhouse, which is six miles from the massive domed stadium where the Final Four was played but, more important, is the place where Milan won its title and where the movie was filmed.

In short, this NCAA Tournament is about as close to a perfect sporting event as happens in the jock pantheon.
So why is it almost certain that the NCAA will blow up a system that has worked so well for 25 years and completely change the landscape of college basketball?

Click here for the rest of the column - A basketball tournament only the NCAA would love


FOTB Staff_ said...

We wanted to note that we had to remove a comment. Please understand that the comments, as always, are for anyone to write agreements, disagreements and their opinions openly - all is welcome, read and wanted. But we please request you keep it 'family friendly' in the language used.



Chris said...

Agree with most of what you write, John. But I take exception to two points--first, as it relates to the NCAA tournament--if this were really about playing for the national championship only--we wouldn't put 20 one-bid conference winners in there that have no chance of winning one game--let alone six--or lower-half teams in BCS conferences. If you really wanted to play for a national championship only (and deprive fans of the upsets that you love)--we'd stop at 16 teams--24 teams tops. The tournament has always been about more than just playing for a national title--because, quite frankly, that's not why people watch it every year.

In a similar vein--one point that never comes up in BCS discussions--is how a playoff would kill big-time non-conference regular season match-ups. In a playoff format (much like Boise State)--it encourages you to go undefeated. Period. Because if you do, you'll be in the playoff. You can count on the big-time programs playing 4 non-conference patsies a season under that scenario. Guaranteed. I'm not sure that's what college football fans want to see.

Mr. X said...

Hello FOTB staff,

How about adding a favicon to the website? Perhaps John's lovely mug?

case said...

you wouldn't put 20 one bid conferences in
whom would you leave out who would have no chance to win ?
the horizon ?
or g mason's caa ?

LosGatosCA said...

I'm good with 256 teams in the tournament.

As long as the bottom 192 are just playing to eliminate each other before the 'real' tournament games begin.

Like the US Open qualifiers. Just don't make the top tier play with them.

I used to hate the old 24 team field with the Pac 10 and Big Ten, among others, getting a first round bye. UCLA would win one game and get to play the regional final at Pauley.

This may be too extreme at the other end. But then again, what's not to like about a few extra paydays for the university when it only involves travel costs for a fe indentured servants.

ck said...

John, this a minor nit-pick, and I agree with your general point that big-time college football is not the money-maker people think it is, but in the interest of accuracy, many more than 30 schools make a profit from football. According to this AP article (, 68 of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision schools made a profit in 2008. There is so much bowl and TV money distributed in the power conferences that even schools like Minnesota and Illinois can make money in football.

vidstudent said...

First, a technical note to the FOTB staff - is there any way you can hard-code a space between the username of the commenter and the word, "Said...."? Not to mention it should be three dots in this case and not four, as you're not trailing off a sentence.


I have no issues with this column, except that it doesn't go into all the problems with this. It's a hard list to compile - being done for money, clearly done to favor power conferences that will get the extra at-large bids and bye seeds, dilution of the field, dilution of the shares that are paid for game appearances and thrusting most of those shares into the hands of the power conferences in order to cut money given to the smaller conferences, forcing students in what would be the third through fifth rounds (which translate to the second through fourth rounds now) to skip an entire week of class, and the further commercialization of the sport to fund this.

To Chris: No chance of winning? Butler, Ohio University, and George Mason would all disagree with you, as do I. The point of this championship is that they *do* have a shot, rather than it be the extreme limitations imposed by, say, the BCS, where you have to get to #1 and #2 to play for the title. Right now, the tournament accepts the top fifth of Division I, and you're saying it should be cut down to a fifteenth or less. That just leaves out too many teams that can, and I can point to pro football and the Pittsburgh Steelers winning a title as a six-seed in the 2005 NFL playoffs. They were most certainly outside the top 6.7% going into the playoffs that year.

Chris said...

Butler would have been in under any 24-team scenario (and most 16-team scenarios) this year. For all of the "Hoosiers" comparisons--Butler was pre-season Top-10. As for Ohio, or Northern Iowa--no, I do not view them as teams with realistic shots to win the national championship.

I'm a Wake Forest fan (and alum), but we had no chance to win the national championship this year--take us out, if that's what we're solely interested in. My point is that the tournament is about much more than that. Otherwise, there would never be any true major upsets.

Jack said...

With expansion by the NCAA tournament to 96 teams, what will be the fate then of the NIT tournament, if the NCAAs take the next best 32 teams? It would be sad to lose the NIT's legacy, although I suppose it will continue in its pre-season format.

case said...

post season nit--gone

lawrence said...

Baskets are just catching up to foots. 96 invites to the dance is the equivalent to 6 wins for a bowl bid.

David said...

I would embrace the 96-team format if the NCAA does the following.

First, they should extend an automatic bid to each regular season conference champ. Then, they should conduct the conference tournament and WITHOUT the regular season champions and give the winner of those tournaments an automatic bid as well. This would ensure that the regular season games would be interesting and meaningful, while still retaining the excitement of the conference tournament.

This would leave 34 at-large bids, most of which would go to teams from power conference schools (as they do now). Of course, this would mean that every conference would get two teams in the tournament (even the Patriot League and the SWAC) and the power conferences would object, but I think that, at 96 teams, there should be enough room to do this and it would ensure that March stays mad.

Anonymous said...

Here is what I don't get. If the tournament is solely worried about the product, why don't they just dole out the games they do have in smaller doses. The first round, they could play over 4 days instead of two and only have two games going on at one time. Four nights of programming. Surely this would draw better than having 'the bottom 64' of 96 play an elimination round. I agree that logistically it would be a bit of a challenge but not more so than what they are talking about doing with playing basketball every day/night for 9 days. Surely there is a better solution where they can get more money w/o ruining the tournament and even worse, ruining the regular season too.

Anonymous said...

Last night's game will make the next great book for you to write, it could have been "The Shot...The Story of the 2010 Butler Bulldogs Miracle Season". You are such a good writer you can spin it to this, "The Miss...The Story of the 2010 Butler Bulldogs Hearbreaking Season". Anyway you win, it is a story to be told either way! That what will make it great!