College basketball is another sport that many people feel is done right for the most part, especially the tournament in March. However, I have some improvement ideas.
1. Drop the 2-half format. This is the only major sport that is divided into 2 periods rather than the normal 4 (and no, soccer DOES NOT COUNT as a major sport). Recently a rule was proposed that at the 10-minute mark of each half, the number of team fouls would reset to 0. This would give a “4-quarter feel” to the game while keeping the unique format of having 2 halves instead of 4 quarters. My question is why. What’s so special about having 2 halves? Women’s college basketball has dropped it and gone to 4 quarters. The men’s game should do so as well. Nothing magical about 2 halves. Get over yourselves.
2. Set standard schedule sizes. Teams can play in different number of games depending on the preseason or holiday mini-tournaments they play in. For example, there may be an 8-team tournament that is single elimination, so 2 teams in that tournament play just 1 game while those that make the finals play 3. Some are structured like the Great Alaska Shootout. After the first 4 games, the winners go on and the losers go to a second bracket. The winners of the semifinals play for the tournament title, and the 2 semifinal losers play a game for 3rd place. The 4 first-round losers square off, with the 2 winners playing to win that side of the bracket, called the 5th place game. The 2 semifinal losers in the losers bracket play a game for 7th place. The result is a tournament where every team plays exactly 3 games. One team goes 3-0, three teams go 2-1, three teams go 1-2, and one poor set of slobs goes home 0-3. Every tournament should be scheduled like this, so that every team in the NCAA plays the same number of games. I would set that number at 30 games. With so many 14-team conferences around these days, most of them play 18 or even 20 conference games. A 30-game schedule allows for 10-12 non-conference games and just keeps everything nice and uniform. I would compress the schedule by 1 week, with all conference tournaments ending by the first Sunday in March instead of the second. This would enable them to….
3. Expand the NCAA tournament. Yes, there are people complaining about the recent expansion to 68 teams as unnecessary because there aren’t enough quality teams. I disagree. There are 352 teams in NCAA Division I basketball. There’s enough quality for a 96-team NCAA tournament and a 32-team National Invitation Tournament (NIT). There are 2 other very-little-known tournaments that are happening besides the NCAA and NIT already. We can kill those off and just put these 128 in the 2 tournaments. That’s still only a little more than one-third of all the teams going to postseason play. That’s good compared to football, where 80 of 128 teams go to bowl games.
“OK, smart aleck,” you are thinking. “What does this 96-team tournament look like?” So glad you asked.
There would be 8 regions with 12 teams each. Remember I said we need to compress the regular/conference tournament season 1 week, and Selection Sunday be the first Sunday in March instead of the second. That’s because we need an extra weekend for an additional round of games. In each region, the top 4 seeds receive first-round byes, while seeds 5-12 play 4 games to get to matches with those top 4 seeds. This would occur that second weekend. Think of the feeding frenzy the first Thursday and Friday are right now. You would have the same thing the previous Saturday and Sunday, with 16 games each day. After that, the tournament resumes the format we know today. The 32 winners from round one play the 32 teams that got byes on Thursday and Friday the next week, just like now. The 32 Thursday/Friday winners play Saturday/Sunday, and those winners go to the regional/super-regional games the 3rd weekend of March. Thursday and Friday see the 8 regional final games. The winners go to the Super-regional finals on Saturday and Sunday, with the Super-regional winners going on to the Final Four.