The NCAA men's basketball Selection Committee has faced a boatload of controversy since it left Colorado, St. Mary's, and Virginia Tech (among others) out of its new field of 68 in favor of UAB and VCU. While each of these four teams had solid cases for and for not making the big dance, it is inevitable that someone is going to have a sour taste in their mouth every year, and 2011 was no different. Just ask Seth Greenberg...again.
But while this year was no exception, the expansion to 68 teams was supposed to make things different. However, it seems that it has only confounded the situation, and resulted in two of the more talked about snubs in recent tournament history. The committee has already allowed for a small expansion once, why not do it again next year?
My proposal to fix this situation is to introduce a field of 72 teams. This would allow for 18 teams to be seeded within each bracket, and not expand the field to unmanageable numbers that have been proposed in the recent past. The small mid-major schools like UNC-Asheville and Boston University (who are No. 16 seeds this year), would only make a small drop down to No. 18 seeds. They are going to be facing No. 1 seeds regardless, so what difference does it make?
With the new field of 68 teams, things have become more muddled. What is the point of the four play-in games? All they seem to do is show that four teams really shouldn't be there anyway (if the committee felt they did then why would they need to engage in what is essentially a play-in game?), and leaving those who are filling out their brackets to wager a guess at who West Virginia, Georgetown, Ohio St. and Pittsburgh are going to play.
And if there are going to be play-in games, why aren't they between all of the No. 15 and No. 16 seeds? It makes no sense whatsoever that a No. 11 and a No. 12 seed are up for grabs in play-ins which have been masked as "first-round games". I felt this way when the tournament had a field of 65, and I feel the same way now.
Every year there are around four teams on the outside looking in that probably should be in anyhow, and three or four teams who got in that likely should be there instead. Many felt that the committee was right to include UAB and VCU over Colorado, St. Mary's and Virginia Tech, and many feel quite the opposite. Expanding to a field of 72 allows for those four teams to be involved on top of the other questionable bids, and eliminates the needless play-in games. It also creates a stronger and deeper field. Regardless of your opinion on the Colorado/Virginia Tech/Saint Mary's vs. UAB/VCU argument, you can't deny that the inclusion of all of these teams would make for a better tournament.
I understand that snubs happen every year and that feelings are hurt as part of the process and that you can't please everybody, but 72 teams is a logical fix. There would be an even number of teams in each region; with 68 teams the numbers become messy and things like play-in games become a necessity. Expanding to a field of 72 teams gets rid of the play-ins, includes all of the worthy teams in the country, and makes for a more exciting tournament.