Monday, March 22, 2010

Dr. Strangehoops, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 96-Team NCAA Basketball Tournament

Depending on the media outlet, the NCAA's plan to expand the Men's Basketball Tournament from 65 to 96 teams falls somewhere on the certainty spectrum from 'done deal' to 'pretty much done deal'. All that's left are the details and timing.

As is my wont, my initial Costasian reaction to this news was disgust, followed by anger that mellowed to exasperation. But then my lizard brain gave way to the part of the mind that actually, y'know, thinks about things.

The NCAA exists to generate revenue for its member organizations. Sure, it runs championships and enforces standards, but it's primarily a sports cartel. Once you've accepted that premise, any notions of the importance of tradition in the NCAA's decision-making process are rendered nothing more than quaintly wishful thinking. While we traffic frequently in such magical realism, this is a case where the cold logic of the almighty dollar is crystal clear.

According to CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager, the annual Men's Basketball Championship generates 98% of the NCAA's operating revenues. While I find that number hard to believe, I suspect that Mr. Yeager may have a better sense of the facts. Adding 32 more games to the tournament (and, if reports are accurate, bringing ESPN along to television those early-round games) would generate a shitload of incremental revenue, roughly speaking. Game, set, mint.

So, to paraphrase one of Bob Knight's more neanderthal public pronouncements, if it's going to happen, we might as well enjoy the benefits a 96-team tourney will bring us.

Michael Litos at CAA: Life as a Mid-Major estimates that the increased revenue will allow mid-majors to increase their basketball budgets by a significantly greater percentage than their high-major counterparts. Sure, the big guys will enjoy more incremental revenue, but as Litos opines, "...I personally have no problem with a major conference school’s budget going from $60 million to $70 million if the budgets of CAA schools move from $1.5 million to $3 million."

Beyond the financial considerations, a 96-team tournament would feature at least 2-3 CAA teams every year. This year, instead of hoping against hope for a miraculous at-large bid for William & Mary, the CAA would have placed the Tribe and Northeastern in a 96-team field. In an important corollary to this line of thinking, the chance for W&M to get in to the tournament in any given year would go up considerably. As a beggar in this area, I'm okay with swallowing my pride so long as it means I get a weekend trip with my friends to Buffalo to watch the Wrens play in a first-round 16 vs. 17 matchup.

Finally, this weekend's wall-to-wall thrill ride makes an even better argument for a 96-team event. 32 more games bring 32 more chances for Oh My God! moments. (32 more chances for Duke/Pine Bluff bludgeonings, too, but nobody remembers those games a week later, while we'll all be able to spell Farokhmanesh for the rest of our lives.) If you capital-l Love college basketball, more games that count mean more games to watch without guilt.

So bring on the field of 96. That, to abuse once again a catchphrase, is change we can believe in, even if it means tradition gets punted.

57 comments:

Marls said...

Why stop at 32? Lets just bring in all of D1. Actually, fuck it. Lets bring in every college basketball team in the country, as well as the top 20 club basketball teams and the intramural champs at the 10 largest schools. We can call it "Hoopapalooza" and sometime in January begin filling out our 5 page bracket.

While I understand the attraction and rea$on for adding more teams, what is the result? You are going to add a handful of borderline teams (like this year's Tribe) who had the opportunity to play themselves in and failed. In addition, you are going to add a bunch of mediocre mid major and power conference also-rans. Plus, if you think that the committee will not systematically relegate the mid majors to the new first day, you are kidding yourself. In the end, in order for the NCAA to get more $$, we get lower quality basketball and a system which will allow the committee to let the unwashed mid majors beat themselves up before being allowed to play with the golden children.

If the system required that the conference tournament winner be put into the top 64, I might be swayed a bit, but the big boys will never let that happen. As for the suggestion that regular season conference champs get an autobid, I like it but how long before we get a scandal where a mid-major tells their regular season champ to tank a game for the $1.5M in cash for the league if they get another team in?

zoltan said...

Alternatively, it's something like an 24 extra games of college basketball to watch.

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Dennis said...

Like a juicy tomato, the thought of it makes me nauseous...until I'm forced to try it. Then it's chunky salsa with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

rob said...

marley marls, i'm not advocating it, just accepting it. re: the scandal scenario, what's to stop that from happening today? utep knew they were going - how do we know the cusa brass didn't tell them to lay down for houston?

Marls said...

I take it all back. Rob's asian friend just made the most perfect argument for why the torney needs to expand... "iccgogo2sex" & "Sexygirl,dvd" - I'm sold.

TJ said...

Wow 消失, that was quite a mouthful.

TR said...

If you want to see a real "mouthful," follow 消失's links!

Marls said...

Rob, while it could happen today, the situations are much more limited. The Miners thought they were getting in, but they were still at the mercy of the committee. I am sure there were a few folks in El Paso on the edge of their seat for selection sunday. Winning the tourney was still their only guaranteed way in. However, under the autobid for the regular season champ systmem they could guarantee two bids. While that might not be a big deal for the WAC, what about the the single bid SWAC or the Northeast Conference. By having the regular season champ take a dive, the conference would automatically get two bids and more $$. Why wouldn't they do this?

Marls said...

I really need to use that spell check thingy.

TR said...

So if they insisted on running that dumb Palm commercial every 15 minutes, shouldn't they have gotten a sexier girl and dressed her sluttier? All the current version does is remind men that women spend too much money buying expensive shoes.

And I'm about to put a pencil into my eardrum in an attempt to get that song out of my head.

TJ said...

I actually did some exercise over the weekend (a quarterly event) and I've gotta tell you, my farokhmanesh is killing me.

rob said...

it seems odd to be happy for someone who just got $184m, but i'm glad for joe mauer and i'm glad for the twins.

rob said...

i snowboarded on saturday and i can barely move today.

TJ said...

Does your Lawal hurt? Or just your Samhan?

rob said...

all of that, and a little bit of lacedarius pain, too.

zoltan said...

I feel Lucious.

Dan said...

i feel f'ing rautin

Dave said...

perhaps the entire college basketball season could be a tournament-- play a few warm-up games and then the tourney begins. if you win, you continue, if you lose, you play scrimmages. so how many teams are there? several hundred? whatever the number is, the season long tournament guarantees that one of these teams will go undefeated for however many games it takes. and with this many teams, you seed randomly the first year and then based on the previous year until armageddon.

Dave said...

there are 336 teams, so really you could play a mini-season and the tournament wouldn't take that much longer than now. so i sincerely agree with marls' ironic and satirical answer.

Marls said...

Dave, I like the cut of your jib.

zoltan said...

I surprised that today's ire is directed mostly towards a theoretical expansion of the college b-ball tourney and not the actual expansion of our government's health care system. Where did all the fiscal conservatives go?

Marls said...

They are busy hiding their money in swiss bank accounts.

Has anybody called Geoff? Is he OK?

rob said...

sweet fancy moses, zoltan. do you really want to drag that mess into these pristine commentlands?

teejay, quick, build a rhombus.

rob said...

for example, geoff might be in need of a huggins.

TJ said...

Mark, come Lighty this joint with me and we'll go get some big Bufords afterwards.

Marls said...

Was Moses really that fancy? Did Jesus' middle name really begin with H.? Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle?

rob said...

he was pretty fancy, marls. you see what he did with those tablets? not so sweet, though, according to sources.

chip said...

I've always believed that you can't actually create more excitement for a league/sport by merely adding more playoff games or spots. Sort of like you can't just solve a national economic crisis by printing more money. What you put in the playoff exceitment pot comes right out of the regular season excitement pot. And in American sports generally, the regular season is already a joke. Why do we insist on treating the regular seasons of so many American sports like glorified pre-season slates? The playoffs are not supposed to be the main event, they are supposed to be the icing on the cake. Once you reach a certain point in the bloating of the post-season, you have essentially admitted that nothing before the post-season means a damn thing. I propose that in NCAA men's hoops, 96 is past that point. If that's the case, let's invite all 300 teams to the tourney and just cancel the regular season.

zoltan said...

If your team loses in the first round of the 300-team tourney, do you still get a varsity letter?

Mark said...

Oh TJ...why did you have to bring up Big Bufords? There is no longer a single Checkers operating within 50 miles of me. Now I'm going to have to drown my sorrows in a bag of green, sticky Farokmanesh. Which, of course, will only leave me wanting a Big Buford that much more.

TJ said...

I had some undercooked Onuaku for lunch and am really paying for it now.

rob said...

this e'twuan tastes like crap.

zoltan said...

Beware the aka-gai.

Mark said...

Yeah, I'm not feeling so well either. I attended a wedding last night and I think the Aminu dip was bad. The Al-Farouq was great though.

TJ said...

Someone do me a Favors and get us off the food angle...

rob said...

i need to go take an egleseder, but my o'rear is still sore from snowboarding.

Mark said...

I think I strained my lower ekpe udoh at the gym this morning.

TJ said...

Despite what everyone says about Whitney, I still find him to be a Thoroughman.

TJ said...

Bobby Boucher pummeled me in the hallway and my Mazzulla Oblongata is destroyed.

Mark said...

Be careful Teej, you don't want to permanently damage your Ebanks.

rob said...

pittsnogle!

old school.

zoltan said...

Your mammy gave me the old Wroblewski behind the bleachers.

Mark said...

Did you know that Bama is teaching PhysEd in West Virginia?

The guy didn't even explore playing in Europe (which he was made for) because he didn't want to live in a foreign country.

rob said...

yep, i was in fact aware of the pittsnogle saga. man's got to know his limitations, i guess.

someone ought to knock some kramer into that kid.

zoltan said...

His decision may be for the best. "Pittsnoggle takes Madrid" sounds like a story with a sad ending.

Mark said...

Depends on your version of sad, I guess. The development of a new strain of gonorrhea sounds kind of exciting to me.

rob said...

i would've thought that sort of thing happened on a weekly basis in gainesville.

Mark said...

No, no, no. Herpes is all the rage in Gainesville these days.

rob said...

so, um, erin andrews is really quite attractive.

and yes, i'm watching dancing with the stars. it's the price i pay to have hoops on all weekend long.

Mark said...

I heard and interview with Andrews today where she stated that her legs were measured as the longest in the history of Dancing with the Stars. This raised my already high opinion of her.

And Rob, don't try and justify what you're watching. You were too busy this weekend to "owe" your wife Dancing with the Stars. You're just a beaten little man...and that's okay.

rob said...

i'm putting a down payment on next weekend.

and her legs. goodness.

Marls said...

My god, what the fuck is up with Buzz Aldrin's wife?

TR said...

I too am stuck on DWTS. Mrs. Aldrin is brutal. Some plastic surgeon is saying whoops somewhere.

Erin is quite healthy.

Marls said...

Lumpy Steve is playing center for the FSU women on espn 2.

zoltan said...

Mighty Healthy, even. Go get it from iTunes.

Who decides who will appear on this show? The figure skater and the Pussycat Spice Girl have a yooj, yooooj advantage over the 80-year-old astronaut with Biden's hairline.

Shlara said...

were all of you boys watching Dancing with the Stars tonight?

you missed the thrilling Va Tech NIT win??