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The NCAA Abandons All Pretense That You Should Care About Their New Tournament Games

So the NCAA yesterday ended the suspense of how the new tournament bracket will look, by releasing a bracket... that you can't actually draw. Also, it's a bad idea.

I really thought that as silly as the expansion to sixty-eight teams was, the NCAA would try to actually make it work. Instead we get this. There are now two 16/17 games like the current Tuesday game in Dayton, to be played by the four worst automatic qualifiers. No surprise there. The other two games making up the "First Four" – trademark almost certainly pending on that little gem, with t-shirts available in the lobby – are to be played among the last four teams in. The winners of those two will be slotted in wherever, as a twelfth, eleventh, or tenth seed typically. Because that's what the tournament really needs, a way to make those thrilling first-round upsets a little less likely.

Basically, the Solomon approach taken here is just going to annoy everyone. Fans on the automatic qualifiers will see it as a second team being shoved off the stage before the tournament gets underway. On the other hand, fans of taking in more mid-level teams will be annoyed that the NCAA is basically punting on those last four in/first four out they currently decide between, letting them wear each other out before being sacrificed to their "second round" opponents. And make no mistake, the NCAA isn't even going through the motions of pretending these games count. They're being aired on Ted Turner's affront to capitalization that is "truTV." Unfamiliar with the station? It used to be called CourtTV, and on the list of Turner properties suitable for airing basketball, it falls somewhere between the ones that air cartoons and the one showing Nancy Grace. 

Every move since the announcement of a 68-team tournament has been that of a group scrambling to make as little waves as possible. The games are now Tuesday/Wednesday games, abandoning the nightmare scenarios of a full second week Greg Shaheen was babbling about back in April. Nothing changes, except three more teams get a little tournament scratch. Move along here, nothing to see.