After the NCAA pretty much came out and said 'Hey we are going to expand the Tournament', there was a ton of uproar around the sports world. And I can't deny it, I was a vocal part of that group. 'How could they ruin the Tournament?!', 'They are doing what?!', you get the picture.
Well then I had a revelation. Walking on campus the other day, I realized something. There was a tree blossoming in the courtyard. If it had just one blossom, or even only a few, the tree would have been fairly beautiful. But because this tree was a tremendous array of small and big blossoms, bright and dark blossoms...This tree was breathtaking. It made me realize that the expansion of the tournament does not HAVE to be a terrible thing. There is really nothing you or I can do about it, especially since there is nothing any ranking officials across our campuses can do. So why not take the glass and deem it half full?
There are plenty of teams that earned a spot through the regular season. Assuming all of the pundits (and rumors) are correct, the new Tournament would be set to include conference regular season champions as well as conference tournament champions. Weber State (Big Sky) and Kent State (MAC) all won their conference championship during the regular season, but were left out of the tournament despite being in the top 96 of the RPI. While I personally don't think the NCAA should ignore the conference tournament (re: results like Ohio vs Georgetown, etc), the regular season winners have certainly earned a spot in the tournament. Think of teams like Oakland, in the Badlands. If we (IUPUI) had knocked them out of the Badlands Tournament, I would have thought it was a sham they would have to settle for less than the NCAA Championship Tournament as a finale to their incredible (17-1) conference campaign. The other teams that were left out this year after winning their conference: Stony Brook (13-3, Am. East); Campbell (14-6, Atlantic Sun); Coastal Carolina (15-3, Big South); Quinnipiac (15-3, Northeast); and Jackson State (17-1, SWAC).
Truly, there would be teams below the Red Line that could have a shot at making the field and even advancing. After re-compiling the numbers, there are officially 44 teams with "automatic bids" that were earned both through the regular season and conference post season according to the new system. Using strictly RPI, I compiled a list of the other 52 teams that would then make the Tournament as an "at-large".
Of those 96...
...33 did not make the Tournament
...7 new "auto-bid" teams were left out
...18 were under the Red Line (19 if you count Memphis)
...7 of the 8 "next out" were under the Red Line
...27 of the last 32 new "at-large" teams were left out
...all 5 of the above teams that made the Tournament were over the Red Line
...18 "auto-bid" teams would not have made the cut if they had not won either their conference nor their conference tournament
...ONLY 41 teams are above the Red Line, meaning 54 are below it!!!
The major problem that so many people have, and I had this same problem before compiling this list, was that the Tournament would become a three-week long veneration of "major" college basketball teams. However with the numbers the way they are, the pros out weigh the cons.
Here is a quadrant of the bracket, amended to be an EXAMPLE (and only an example) of what the bracket could have looked like this year, using RPI and not actual rankings (because that is just what I like best).
9. Georgia Tech
5. Northern Iowa
4. Texas A&M
13. Notre Dame
23. Coastal Carolina
15. Murray St
I truly think that this new bracket could lend to some very exciting games. The ESPN pundits are going around mocking the 16-17 or 15-18 games, but really those are two of the best games possible in the tournament. Who wouldn't want to see Murray St and Wofford battle it out? What if one of them could take down Syracuse (which is entirely possible)? How wouldn't that be a good idea?
Take your love your team. Tell me then you wouldn't want to see them win in the National Tournament. I have to then ask myself, would I want to see IUPUI, as a potential (say) 18 seed after they won their conference tournament, or a 16 seed in the current system? A 15-seed this year, a Murray St or William & Mary or Virginia Tech or Seton Hall, would be their opponent and I like their chances at that point. If they were an 18-seed under the current system, that could translate to a 13- or 14-seed, or a 16.7% and 20.2% chance of winning respectively. I finally answer thusly: I would LOVE to see my team win, and the best chance of seeing my team win (on national television no less!) would be to play a team more equal to my team's level. As a 16-seed the chances of winning go from 0.0% to 50% (since there has never been a 16/17 game, one must assume there is an equal chance when the seeds are this close).
You can be still be angry the NCAA is a bunch of money grabbing (insert your own adjective here). But they aren't going to stop what they're doing just because you don't like it. Look at the positives. Look at the tree in full bloom.