If there is one thing sports fans love, it’s a draft. The NFL draft routinely gets strong television ratings even though the players selected will not step foot on the field in a meaningful game for months.
Why not add a draft wrinkle to the NCAA Tournament? Just imagine if you can…
It’s Selection Sunday, the selection committee just ranked the teams one through 64 and now a representative from each team is seated in Madison Square Garden, each one staring at a blank NCAA Tournament bracket…
And here we go…
“With the first pick in the draft, the Kentucky Wildcats will take the No. 1 seed in the South Region and will play their first round games in Louisville.”
Greg Anthony applauds. Greg Gumble interviews Coach John Calipari about his decision.
Then, three minutes later…
“With the second pick in the draft, the Syracuse Orange will take the No. 1 seed in the East Region and will play their first round games in Pittsburgh.”
Sure. The first couple of teams will have pretty boring and predictable picks, but then we get to the sixth pick and the Duke Blue Devils. Do they take the No. 2 seed in the South and face Kentucky in the Elite Eight? Or would Coach K rather go elsewhere? Atlanta is pretty close to home for Duke, but is it worth a few extra miles of travel to avoid Kentucky for as long as possible?
The draft would make teams want to be ranked in the Top 15, so they could also pick where they’d play their first round games. Obviously, if you are drafting 13th, you might have to pick between a site far away from campus and a site farther away from competition, but you’d still get a choice.
Coaches get paid based on how far they advance in the NCAA Tournament. It’d be fascinating to see how they try to navigate their team through the bracket.
Do you take a higher seed?
Or do you take a spot in a bracket where you’ll play closer to home?
If you’re a team like Georgetown, do you avoid Big East foes for as long as you can? Or would you prefer a matchup against the "familiar opponent" and avoid the unknown?
So many scenarios. So many questions to answer.
Do you see how much fun this would be? It’d be instant bulletin board material for some teams. Which team decides to play in the eight-versus-nine game knowing that a win means they’re going up against Kentucky in the next round?
You could argue for restrictions on how you draft. For example, when it comes time for the fourth pick (last year it would have been Michigan State), Michigan State can select the remaining No. 1 seed (assuming the first three teams choose to be No. 1 seeds themselves) or a No. 2 seed in one of the other three brackets. However, Michigan State cannot pick something random like the No. 4 seed. This ensures that the strongest teams in each bracket are the highest seeds in each bracket.
But, I don’t like this rule personally, because some teams will want to play closer to home, and would be willing to play a tougher team and take a lower seed in order to do so. So why restrict the teams at all?
No restrictions! Chart your course and then let’s play.
The draft order would be based on the NCAA Selection Committee's final rankings. Also, only 64 teams are drafting. Sorry Lamar, Mississippi Valley State, Vermont and Western Kentucky.