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March Madness Is Overrated

While I know the NCAA Tournament will not change, maybe the MAC Championship will!

NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Notre Dame v North Carolina Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Back in my younger days, I used to look forward to Saint Patty’s Day with mixed emotions. Sure, it was great fun, but it was also the day when a lot of non party people partied like rock stars. While this might seem fun to some, it wasn’t to me. It lacked a certain authenticity.

It’s similar to the buzz that March Madness creates. It’s great for college basketball’s bottom line, because so many non fans, or casual fans, are suddenly invested. It’s ok for me, a guy that spent a mid-December evening watching Central Michigan take on Marygrove. I actually watched multiple Marygrove games this season.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love an underdog story like the next guy, and even filled out a bracket this year, that may, or may not, have had Kent State going to the Sweet 16. However, it’s not without it’s problems.

So what is it, exactly, that I don’t like? It completely diminishes the regular season in multiple ways.

First, a team can win 30 in the regular season, and have one bad night and be bumped from the tournament. Basketball isn’t a game that should determine a champion in a single elimination format. There is a reason that the NBA has playoff series.

Second, in a conference like the Big Ten or ACC, a team that wins roughly half their league games makes the tournament. Non-conference games are virtually meaningless, as the best team could lose back to back games against the two worst teams in the country and still make the tournament. Sure, one or two games could make all the difference to a bubble team, but there is no way to have an idea which ones in the middle of the season with have that impact. And even if their bubble is burst, they can still win their conference tournament and make the 64+ team playoff.

In a conference like the MAC, a team can lose every game in the non-conference, and the conference season, and only have a slightly tougher road than a team that went 25-8 to the NCAA Tournament.

So while I know the NCAA Tournament isn’t likely to change up the cash cow they have, except to maybe add more teams, I do think the MAC could do a little better job at determining their champion.

I spent the weekend in Lexington, Kentucky, watching the NCAA Baseball Tournament, which also has 64 teams. Their first round is 16 regionals, where 4 teams each face a double elimination mini-tournament. For a multitude of reasons why the NCAA wont do it, I do think it’s format that is somewhat feasible for the MAC tournament.

A 4 team double elimination tournament could be done in a week and a half, with the division winners getting an automatic bid. Then the team with the best record that didn’t win a division would be the third team, and there could be a single elimination pre-tournament for the last spot. While it could include all the remaining teams, I would like it to be the next 4 teams.

The whole thing could go Friday to Friday, and make the regular season more meaningful, and do a better job of determining the champion.

While I do love the dramatics of March Madness, I have watched far too many good teams go down because a couple guys had a bad shooting night at the same time, or a star player got into foul trouble, that may, or may not, have been his fault. A season of work shouldn’t be wiped out completely because of situations like that.

It’s the off-season, and I have thrown out a few crazy ideas. I don’t think this is one of them.