With “Selection Sunday” for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament coming up in less than two weeks, there is lots of chatter about who should be in the tournament, who shouldn’t be, as well as the idea of expanding from 65 teams to 96.

First of all, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament should definitely expand to include 96 teams.  This would mean that 32 teams (8 in each of the four bracket “regions”) would sit and wait while 32 “play-in” games happen.

I keep hearing terms like Bubble Teams, RPI and Strength of Schedule thrown around, trying to make it seem like some sort of science to determine which schools are in and which ones are left watching The Tournament from home.  When it comes to ranking the teams which get into the tournament?  Let that be a science.  When it comes to deciding who the additional 31 invitees are, let that be an art.

As you might guess, I’ve got the answer on how to pick those teams.

After the 64 teams are chosen for the tournament, I want to know how the other schools did playing in games against “RPI top 50” teams.   I want the “Noteable Wins” and the “Bad Losses”.  Where I might differ from the guys at ESPN, I want to include teams which could be big risks.  If you’ve got a resume with wins against the top teams?  I want you in the tournament.  If you’ve got some bad losses, that’s fine by me.

The NCAA Tournament doesn’t exist just to find out which school has the best basketball team in the nation.  If that were the case, this would be a tournament of no more than 16 teams.

This tournament is about the upsets.  It’s about schools like George Mason getting further than any rational person thought they would.  It’s about seeing the big name schools with future NBA players get beaten by cohesive squads of future teachers, bankers, car salesmen and the like.

I heard the argument that Illinois should probably not be in the tournament because their victories over Michigan State, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin weren’t enough to make up for the fact that they lost to inferior teams like Utah, Bradley and Ohio State.

I say that’s EXACTLY the reason to include Illinois in the NCAA tournament.  If they can play well against great teams and have a knack for losing to teams they shouldn’t, that’s GOLDEN for the tournament.

I also want to see good coaches get invitations to the tournament, even if their teams aren’t performing well.  That means UNC and Louisville, you’re coming to the tournament.

The selection committee should also pick some smaller / “mid-major” schools who have a knack for winning-streaks or proven records of beating good teams and bring them along.  I don’t care if a team doesn’t win its conference tournament / championship.  More than one team from the CAA, for example, should be able to come to The Tournament.  96 spots would allow for that. The Missouri Valley Conference shouldn’t have their RPI Top 40 teams snubbed from the tournament. Missouri State shouldn’t continue their trend of being left out of The Tournament despite having high RPIs like in previous years of missing out even after reaching an RPI of 21, 34, and 36. You can’t tell me that in 2004, The Tournament wouldn’t have been better had it included Utah State – which completed its regular season games with a record of 25-2. Seriously, the NCAA Tournament selection committee didn’t have them just because it lost in its conference tournament?! It was the first team to ever be nationally ranked in the Top 25 to be excluded. What a load of crap!

Even including teams like Missouri State and Utah State, I’m sure there’d be a few more spots available, so give those spots to some high profile teams from schools which tend to have large fan support.  The tournament’s about ratings, right?  I always fill out a bracket, but there have been years where the only reason I’ve tuned into the tournament is to see how my favorite couple of college teams are doing.  I’m not sure about the details, but I’m sure that at least 5 of the 10 years, I didn’t watch a single NCAA tournament game.  If one of “my teams” were in it, I’d give it a look for sure, and even if all of “my teams” were gone by the end of the first round, I might be hooked into watching subsequent rounds. You think the Notre Dame fans are going to disagree with me on this? Ask them in a couple weeks when they’re watching the NIT Tournament instead of getting into the excitement of the REAL dance.

Some make the argument that the NCAA Tournament isn’t broken (it’s quite possibly the one thing in college sports that ISN’T broken), so the NCAA shouldn’t try to “fix it”.  By that same argument, we never would’ve gotten the Bacon Cheeseburger, Chili-Cheese French Fries, Fully Loaded Nachos or High Definition Televisions. I still maintain that schools like Missouri State and Utah State would tell you the system IS broken.

All in all, the NCAA Tournament is great.  It’s time to make it better.

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