The NCAA had a press conference at the Final Four yesterday during which they made the effort to sell people on the idea of an expanded NCAA Tournament. To really get the full entertainment value of NCAA senior VP Gary Shaheen’s presentation, check out the back and forth with the Washington Post’s John Feinstein. It makes Abbott and Castello look sane. The point Feinstein harps on and the real nugget revealed on Thursday was the proposed schedule for this behometh. If you thought simply going to 96 teams was a stupid idea, just look at how they plan to schedule it:
Thursday/Friday(traditional start): 1st round(i.e. bottom 64 teams)
Saturday/Sunday: Round of 64(32 1st round winners vs 32 bye teams)
Tuesday/Wednesday: Round of 32
Thursday/Friday: Sweet Sixteen
Saturday/Sunday: Elite Eight
Saturday: Final Four
Monday: National Championship
Everyone assumed that the NCAA would simply play the new 1st round on Tuesday/Wednesday and then have round of 64 start on the Thursday it normally starts. Not so. The plan is to have teams play three games in five days during the 2nd week. Feinstein’s point, which Shaheen dodged like it was going to hurt him, was that teams advancing to the 2nd week could miss a whole week of class. Granted that would happen if they did it the first week but when you consider top 32 seed would miss half the first week then potentially all of the 2nd week after having done a conference tournament the previous week then you are basically having players out of class for most of 2-3 weeks. Also, by putting the three games in one week in the middle of the tournament you are ensuring a high seed like UNC(in most seasons) would play Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday with travel from one site to the next mixed in there somewhere.
The other issue is the simplicity of the bracket and the schedule as it stands now is ruined but none of that matters. Not to mention the difficulty for fans to be able to follow their team through the tournament seeing they would have to take a week off of work to do so as pointed out by ESPN's Dana O'Neil. The more I see of this monstrosity, the worse it looks from the diluting of the regular season to an incredibly tough schedule to win a tournament which is already difficult to win in its current form. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of all is the fact a money hungry NCAA is willing to screw with something everyone loves(the NCAA Tournament) while refusing to address the postseason everyone hates(the BCS) all while making the opposite arguments to justify both.
Crossposted in part at Thee Sports Blog