The NCAA bracket was released Sunday night during a shortened CBS broadcast. Last year, the network tried to stretch the show into a two-hour nightmare by extending the release of the bracket as long as possible to drive ratings. This tactic failed miserably when the full bracket was leaked on Twitter minutes into the show. This year CBS took a different approach. The show started promptly and regions were released in a timely fashion. This marked a positive change by the network but the bracket itself was puzzling.
I do not like the set up of the first four play in bracket. Automatic qualifiers should not be forced to play in the first four bracket. The first four bracket should consist of only teams that made the tournament by at large selections. The Big Ten champion would never be forced to play in the first four bracket and that should go for all of the other conferences as well. The problem with the bracket extends into the number of teams they let in the tournament. Advertisers still want the tournament to expand but at some point you have to say enough is enough. The regular season has to count for something.
This debate is sure to carry over to the College Football Playoffs. The NCAA needs to step in and set up regulations that are consistent for all sports. They need to set a limit on the amount of teams that can make a post season tournament. This can be set as a percentage so that it is consistent across all sports. There are 351 Division 1 schools that play basketball across 32 conferences. Since 68 teams can make the NCAA tournament, 19.37% of schools can play in the postseason for a chance at a national championship.
There are 128 schools that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Using the same percentage, an equivalent playoff for football would consist of 24 teams. I think everyone can agree that 24 teams is too much for a football playoff. The same should be said of the NCAA tournament. It should not expand.
As for the seeding, the Big Ten is vastly under-seeded and their top teams have been placed in the same region. This does not allow the Big Ten conference to show its depth in the tournament. It looks like they prioritized matchups based on television ratings potential. With this, the regions worked out so that there are two overpowered regions and two that look like cake walks for the top teams.
This leaves the tournament unbalanced and slighted towards the teams that are perceived to be top basketball schools. To add some madness to March, I would like to see a more balanced bracket in the future. This would remove any doubts or questions by coaches or teams that feel they got a bad seed or should have made the tournament. Teams should have the regular season highlight their accomplishments to the point that no committee is needed to select or seed teams for the tournament. I would almost like to see some computer component added to the selection criteria. Almost.