Now the good news. Early Thursday morning, I was close to finishing an article entitled "Further Proof That a 96 Team Tournament Is a VERY Bad Idea". I had included references from several recent terrific articles from Gary Parrish, Andy Katz, Mike Litos and Joe Lunardi. I thought I had an interesting article for my readers and I was going to finish the article Thursday night.
Then, during the only brief free moment I had Thursday, I checked my Twitter account. And what should I see first, a tweet from Mr MidMajority himself, KW (Kyle Whelliston) which stated "Today is a day of great celebration and relief. Now who wants a quadruple serving of P.I.G.?!" And before that tweet, he had retweeted from the Orlando Sentinel -"NCAA votes to expand NCAA Tournament to 68 teams, signs $10.8 billion, 14-year deal with CBS, Turner."
I felt like Gus Johnson - OHHHHHHH! This was a like a sixteen seed beating a one seed!
You see, we had heard for weeks, hell months, that 96 teams were a done deal. NCAA Vice President Greg Shaheen alluded to it. Jay Bilas, Gary Parrish, Mike Litos, Kyle Whelliston, Joe Lunardi, Andy Katz, Pat Forde, any good national college basketball writer said it was basically a done deal. Even Mike Francesa, Jerry Beach's favorite talk show host said it was a done deal. You even had Gregg Doyel saying "stop your whining" and "Think of another round of tournament games like a batch of brownies. You gonna turn down seconds?"
Well apparently Gregg, the NCAA listened to EVERYBODY's whining and decided that a 96 team batch of brownies would leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. In fact, NCAA Interim President Jim Isch stated "There was no decision ever to go to 96. " They were able to get a more lucrative contract from CBS/Turner and only add three teams to the tournament in the process. Thus the NCAA tournament teams and conferences will get a bigger share of the pie now.
All I can say is someone said last December the NCAA should go to 68 teams instead of 80 and 96. His article is here. Make sure to read it.
OK, that concludes the crowing part of this article.
Now we will likely get four play in games (otherwise known as P.I.Gs) on that Tuesday instead of the one pitting the two lowest automatic bid teams. Now the question here is how will the PIGs play out. Kyle Whelliston in a tweet on Thursday stated that it will be the automatic bid qualifiers seeded 16 and 17 and the Orlando Sentinel article seems to back that. I noted in my aforementioned December article it will be the last eight at large bid teams in the tournament. In her article Thursday, Dana O'Neill believes that it will also be the last eight large bid teams as well. And here's her reasoning.
...But somehow I doubt the networks paid $10.8 billion to offer a quadruple-header matching up North Texas, Robert Morris, Vermont, Morgan State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UCSB, Lehigh and East Tennessee State, this year's 15- and 16-seeds.
Dana, that works for me. In fact, to drive home my point, here's what I said in my aforementioned December article as I referred to the teams left out in the 2009 Tournament.
No offense to those programs or their alumni bases, but those aren't the sort of name brands that drive viewership.
Instead, imagine this lineup going head-to-head: Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, Illinois, UTEP, Utah State, Minnesota and, let's say, Florida and Georgia Tech.
That's a combination of Joe Lunardi's last three out this season (Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Illinois) and the lowest-seeded at-large teams from this year's bracket.
It's a murderers' row of desperate teams with name cachet and a murderers' row that frankly deserves to suffer a little more for not getting the job done during the regular season.
The winners could slide into either the 12- or 13-seed spot, depending on how the NCAA wanted to set it up.
This would work better for many reasons. The first that comes to my head is that it's usually only a handful of teams, say two or three that truly get wrongly snubbed out of a NCAA bid. Last season, you could seriously make a case for Saint Mary's, San Diego State and Creighton not making the tournament. It's been like that the last four seasons by my count (see my aforementioned other teams in previous seasons). This way you can get those teams into the play-in round and we can then see which team truly deserved to be in the dance.And it makes sense. This should basically really end all the bubble talk we have heard the past few years. There are a few teams that deserved to be in that were snubbed - Hofstra and Missouri State in 2006, Arizona State in 2008 and St Mary's in 2009. And a few teams like Virginia Tech this year that didn't deserve to be in the tournament. Those teams would have all likely made it into a 68 team tournament and they can now prove their worth in a play in game.
Now my friend Grant Hayden says the bubble talk will never end because teams that get snubbed from the 37th at large bid will still complain. But we both agreed that the easy reply to that is that team would be lower in consideration if it was only 34 at large bids, so the complaint is not warranted. That means Seth Greenberg, try to improve on your non conference SOS of 342, ok?
And the 30th -37th at large teams should be playing into the round of 64, not the automatic bid qualifiers. Now I know KW disagrees with me on this, because he is the biggest supporter of the current P.I.G., which he calls "The Most Honest Game" in the NCAA Tournament, because it pits two conference champions and the winner gets a $1.2 million win share for their school and conference. And there is a lot to be said about that. Those schools and conferences could certainly use the money. And the city of Dayton deserves a lot of credit for supporting the teams that play in the P.I.G.
However, I have long hated the concept of the current P.I.G because it was brought about by the most dishonest means. When the Mountain West split off from the WAC and created 31 automatic bid conferences, the NCAA decided to not eliminate the 34th at large bid for the men's tournament (which is what the women's tournament decided to correctly do) and decided to create the play in game between the 64 and 65 seeds. These two seeds have always been the lowest rated "automatic bid" qualifiers.
But I have long stated that if you have an "automatic" bid, you should not have to "play in" to the tournament. And as much as win shares help the winning team, the losing team in this automatic qualifier is denied the chance to play in the 64 against a #1 seed.
Thus, the kids that played for Winthrop who lost to Arkansas Pine Bluff in the play in game this season, never got the chance to play a #1 seed. Those kids won their conference tournament. Winthrop had more of a right to play in the round of 64 than say Utah State, UTEP or Minnesota (who all lost their first round tournament games). They deserved years from now to be able to tell their kids, grandkids, whoever that they got to play Duke, Kansas, Kentucky or Syracuse.
Ask those kids if they cared about win shares. They just wanted to get to the round of 64.
But either way, whether it's the four 16 seeds vs. the four 17 seeds or the last eight at large bid teams facing off each other, it's still better than 96 teams. And we are getting now four P.I.Gs either way. Here's hoping they at least keep a doubleheader of P.I.Gs in Dayton. The city deserves that much for its past support.
One last thing. Mr. Doyel, apparently for now the NCAA listened to the "whining" public. The "whining" public likes their brownies the way they are served now. But we don't mind four bacon appetizers first.
PS - Thanks to everyone and I mean everyone who spoke up or wrote an article that said a 96 team tournament was a bad idea. See what happens when you speak or write your mind. Sometimes, people in power DO listen.