Saturday, March 27, 2010

On Tournaments

Considering how big a proponent of a NCAA College Football Tournament I am, you might think I get into March Madness. Alas, I’ve just never been much of a fan of basketball in general. The tournament itself, I’ve always had a hard time getting into.

The early rounds all just seem so pointless. 65 teams qualify for the tournament (one team gets eliminated in a “play-in” game allowing for a 64 team “first” round), but the lowest seed to ever win was Villanova in 1985 at #8. That means in that atypical year, they could have started with a field of 32 and not changed the outcome of the tournament. (Each of the 4 regions is seeded, meaning there are four #1 seeds, four #2, etc.)

In fact, in all but 3 years since they started seeding, they could have started with a field of 16 and not changed the outcome. (Kansas won in 1988 as a #6 seed, the aforementioned Villanova in 1985, and NC State as a #6 in 1983. Note that it’s been more than 20 years since a team seeded lower than #4 has won it all.)

Of course, the problem with a 16 team tournament is how would you choose the 16 teams? Well, clearly whatever method they’re using to seed the teams works just fine, but you’d get all sorts of outcry when teams who won their conference got left out. You also can’t go the other way. There are 31 conferences. Cobble together another conference and just start with a field of 32 conference winners… except last year’s champion North Carolina would have been left of that system as they lost the ACC.

Thus, in spite of the fact that the first two rounds are essentially pointless, they make the tournament respectable. “Respectability” being the primary element missing from the current College Football system.


Apparently there are rumors of expanding the tournament to 128 teams. That would be seriously pointless. Clearly no team with a legitimate chance of winning is getting left out of the field of 65. An expansion would allow 37% off all Division I teams into the tournament, render the regular season even more pointless, and be nothing more than a greedy grab for the money they could make off an extra round.

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