Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Unfair Play-In Game

There's very little wrong with the NCAA Tourney the way it is. The teams actually decide the champion by playing it out on the court, there's 65 win-or-go-home games in close proximity, and who doesn’t love a good office pool? One thing that is horribly wrong though is the play-in game.

I understand why it's there. A few years back, the WAC split into the WAC and the Mountain West Conferences, thus creating the need for one more automatic bid to be awarded to the MWC Tournament champion. That's when the power of the almighty dollar stepped in.

Instead of reducing the number of at-large bids by one, the NCAA instituted a Play-in game, to be held in Dayton, OH, every year on the Tuesday before the Big Dance starts. The two worst teams - in the committee's eyes - duke it out on Tuesday to turn around and be thrown to the wolves on Friday.

It's an absolute shame the way it's set up now. Half of the kids relegated to the Play-in Game - who pour their hearts and souls into their season just like everyone else - don't even get their name on the official bracket. They know they're going to be blown out, but let them play the games on Thursday and Friday. Every other conference tournament champion gets a chance to knock off one of the big dogs, so why don’t they? Unless you're a fan of the losers, is there anything better than seeing a school like Richmond knock off Arizona in Round 1? Or who can forget Hampton's coach being lifted off the ground by one of his players after they knock off Iowa State?

If the NCAA wants to keep the Play-in game, fine, so be it. But why not have the last 2 schools to receive at-large bids duke it out instead? Wouldn't it be much more interesting this year to see Ole Miss and Ohio State playing for the right to get in as a 13-seed? It would certainly generate more of an audience than Niagara and Florida Atlantic did last year, or Monmouth and Hampton the year before that, and so on.

But don’t expect any changes to happen. The NCAA is a business, regardless of how they try to portray themselves. They understand that more fans from a mediocre BCS conference team will travel than a small-conference tournament champion. That means more ticket sales which obviously means more money. It also means that a small conference champion is eliminated from the tournament before a major conference team with a losing conference record even plays its first game. And that’s an absolute shame.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If they're going to keep using that stupid play-in game (when getting rid of it entirely is the only solution that makes any sense or dollars), maybe they should use it to send a potential top seed home early.