On Tuesday, we started exploring ideas that the NCAA can make their men’s basketball tournament successful once they expand the field from 64 to 96 teams. Today, we’ll look at the teams, television coverage, and the tournament locations.
The decision to expand the field will most likely come in July, with the proposal to go in effect starting with the 2011 tournament. In part one, the tournament committee make-up and the schedules were discussed and I gave my ideas on those two factors.
The expansion of the tournament may be a sign that the non-major conferences like the Missouri Valley, the Southern, and the Big West conference will have more teams in the field. But there is a concern that mediocre-to-poor teams from power leagues like the Big Ten, Pac-10, ACC, and Big East will get in, solely on the basis of the reputation of their respective leagues.
Idea: a team that has less than a .500 record in conference play in any league, will not be considered for an at-large bid, unless they win their conference tournament. That may include leagues in which the conference champion has a less than a .500 record and no league tournament.
Example: West Eastern State is the regular-season conference champions with an 8-10 record. If their league has no conference tournament, they should not get an at-large bid. If a conference tournament is held and they win it, they will receive the automatic bid. This is an attempt to get the best teams with good records in the tournament. If a conference doesn’t have a team with a .500 or above record, they probably don’t deserve to have a team representing them in the tournament.
The NCAA, upon approval of the expansion, will likely opt out of its television contract with CBS, ending a 28-year relationship with the network when CBS acquired the rights to broadcast the tournament in 1982. ESPN will get the first crack to bid on acquiring the rights. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. However in this day and age, there are many viewers who, for some reason, still do not have basic cable to watch ESPN.
Yes, they still resort to watching terrestrial television.
With that said, efforts have been made in the past to provide the extra coverage of games for fans who want to follow their teams. The March Madness on Demand website the NCAA provides has been one of the most successful ventures to be created to cater to those who are unable to watch the game on television.
I don’t have a suggestion for television because if ESPN gets it, it can handle the workload, which is something that CBS could do, but may not have the expansive resources that ESPN has. Though I have one wish: CBS to do the coverage from the Sweet Sixteen to the National Championship game. Then again, it’s me.
With the creation of the pod system in 2002, the efforts to limit the early-round travel has been a moderate success. However, the hangup I have is that the NCAA tends to re-use the same venues over and over. This is a prime opportunity for cities like Des Moines (Wells Fargo Arena) to be considered to host the 1st 2 rounds , or the 3rd and 4th rounds of the expanded tournament. There can be so many times Spokane, Birmingham, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Boise State can continue hosting games. The NCAA needs to break out this comfort level and move the sites around to give cities like Des Moines and Omaha a chance to prove that they can be great hosts during the tournament.
Idea: stop re-using the same tired old venues and move the tournament sites around, as the tournament was designed to do. Also consider doing what the women’s tournament has done for some time now: have the higher seed host the 1st two rounds on campus. Keep in mind, the state of South Carolina has been excluded from hosting, due to that state’s refusal to take down the Confederate flag.
Those are my biggest ideas and suggestions at this point with respects to March Madness. Things could change between now and July when the NCAA makes the final decision.
I invite you to read these suggestions from today and from Tuesday, and tell me what you do you think? Did I go far enough or is there a better plan that you have?