Are we really that hypocritical?
All season we've been complaining, no, we've been hoping, in fact, we've been praying that the NCAA was going to do the right thing. That they would be true to the sport and not go for the money. Make a decision for the sport of basketball, not for TV ratings.
And today, the NCAA did just that. Sure they're getting paid, but they only bumped the tournament up to 68 teams. Three more teams, that's all. Our hopes and prayers have been answered, and our regular season still means something.
But then sports writers across the country, including ESPN's Dana O'Neil , started saying the play in games should be the at large teams instead of the automatic qualifiers. So after three months of berating the NCAA for thinking about moving to 96, we want to create a bracket that hurts better teams?
Here's how this should work, and it's really simple. Create whatever rules you want for getting the field to 68. Maybe four spots are set aside for mid-majors, whatever, I don't care. However, once the field is set, the play in games go to the worst eight teams. That's just how it works.
Utah State and UTEP shouldn't have to play each other and then fly halfway across the country two days later to play a Top 20 team while the SWAC champion sits around waiting for the guillotine to drop on them in Round One.
What happens when there's an auto-qualifier that should be seeded on the 12 line, like Cornell was this year? Do they get bumped up a line to an 11? Forcing the last eight o play in would knock four teams that are likely to pull upsets out of the tournament before it ever really starts.
The last eight teams in are all better than the winners of the worst eight conferences. Just because you win the Southland Conference you don't "deserve" to play a top seed. You earned your way into the NCAA tournament as a 16 or 17 seed, and you play the game accordingly.
Dana's (and everyone else's) reasoning is that it would make people care about the games on Tuesday. It would make those games matter. It would be good TV for the average sports fan. Well you know what else would have done that?
A 96 team tournament.