Some say the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament is the best sporting event on earth.
I'm inclined to disagree, preferring Championship Sunday in the NFL, but I'll accept it as a valid position.
Although it's refreshing to see an actual champion being determined in the open, rather than in backrooms and computer labs, there are some flaws with the road to the Final Four.
Here are some suggestions for improvement.
OK, let's be real. The tournament starts Thursday. Sorry Morehead State, but your win over Alabama State was just an extra game to determine who goes into the tournament.
The NCAA avoids the term "play-in game," but calling a tail a leg doesn't mean dogs are quintapeds. Nobody's fooled.
If the bracket were expanded to 72 or 80 teams, that would be a clear indication that something new is going on.
Eighty teams would mean four opening round games in each region. I prefer 64, but I'm afraid the tournament is not going back in that direction.
With a 64 team field, you have things set up perfectly for three weekends of play. Expanding the bracket would probably mean stretching the tourney out.
What's the rush?
I think Selection Sunday should take place after all the conference tournaments are finished. That way, the Selection Committee has up to a week to decide who's in and out.
Members can use the extra time to weigh the merits and demerits of "bubble" teams.
There are too many rules
For some reason, the NCAA has come up with a laundry list of rules that don't appear to have any benefit.
Here's a sample, thanks to the Los Angeles Times:
• The first three teams selected from a conference must be placed in different regions.
• There shall not be more than two teams from a conference in one region unless a ninth team is selected from a conference.
• Conference schools can't meet before the regional final unless a ninth team is selected from a conference.
• A team cannot play in an arena in which it has played more than three games during the season, not including conference postseason tournaments.
• If possible, rematches of regular-season games should be avoided in first and second rounds.
What's the benefit of placing teams from the same league in three different regions?
Unless you're talking about The Big 12, which has teams in Colorado, Texas, and Iowa, you're setting yourself up for geographic error. Not to mention teams are being placed far from home regardless of what their rank should dictate.
And the rule about keeping conference foes separate until the regional final just forces the committee to take a team that should be a three seed and make it a four seed.
I think all of those rules should be replaced with two.
Rule No. 1: The S-curve rules.
I'd take the top four teams in the field, and make them the No. 1 seeds.
The Charlotte Observer lists Louisville as the No 1. team in the nation. That makes the Cardinals No. 1 in the South, because Louisville is in the South.
Pittsburgh, being overall No. 2, is the No. 1 seed in the East—again, geography.
No. 3 North Carolina can't go to the South because Louisville is already there so the Tar Heels are top seed in the Midwest.
No. 4 Memphis gets the West because that's what's left.
LSU, Texas A&M, and East Tennessee State would be in a "pod" with Louisville. Four Southern teams in the South? Imagine that!
Rule No. 2. Since when is Boise east of Philadelphia?
After each pod has been determined, they should be located closest to the highest seeded team actually in that part of the country.
Louisville would start its journey in Kansas City, MO.
North Carolina would start against Chattanooga in Dayton, OH.
How about this pod in Portland, OR? Gonzaga, UCLA, Utah State, and Cornell.
Most pods would have at least two teams from within a short flight.
Postscript: Jump ball!
The possession arrow can encourage a team to go for a tie-up rather than try to get the ball. In some cases, that punishes a team that's played 32 or 33 seconds of rock-solid defense.
A coin flip or a "no tops" shot for possession would be better than the possession arrow.
Too bad nobody at the NCAA has come up with the idea of staggering the games so that they're televised from 10 a.m. Eastern to 10 p.m. Pacific, non-stop.
Now that's what I call March Madness!