The 2011 68-team March Madness bracket has been widely scrutinized. Various topics from the beginning four games being irrelevant and not actually the start of the tournament, to the reasons why teams such as VCU and UAB even made the dance to begin with. I will be honest with you, which ever way they choose to organize the bracket I am pretty much OK with because of the amount of excitement the month of March brings college basketball fans.
There are currently 68 teams who have the chance to cut down the nets and win the National Championship in April and I truly believe this years tournament will be very exciting, have their share amount of close games and buzzer beaters and will be remembered like all the other tournaments were: Madness. But riddle me this, when we had 64 teams, people were bashing the committee for not letting certain teams in and now we have moved to 68 teams and people are still screaming and yelling like Colorado and Virginia Tech. What would happen if we extended the field to 96 teams?
Would there still be this post-field fighting over the 95th and 96th position in the humongous bracket? Would the Indiana Hoosiers have a case when their RPI was 103rd and a team who's RPI was 107th got in the field? Would their still be all of this conversation about why a certain team got in or why this particular team who won a total of 12 games this season was left out over a team who won 11 games, but beat two more teams in the top 100 RPI? In my opinion I think the scrutiny would die down a bit, we would most likely have to add a week of basketball to the post season schedule and we would end up having to eliminate on of the other post season tournaments like the CBI. The positive sign to this argument is that more fan bases across the college basketball landscape would be even more interested in the field of 96 because their team was involved [if even for a game or two] and had a "chance" to make a Cinderella run all the way to the Elite Eight. What I think would work is instead of adding the extra 32 teams to the bracket and having it all at neutral sites and just basically continue the tournament the way it is now, just with a ton more teams; the idea would be to have what the NIT has, but as an extension to the March Madness Bracket. Take the remaining 32 teams and either have the top half play the bottom half on the lower seeded teams home court, or what I think is a fantastic idea, is do a home-home with the two teams and add the points up, it would be extremely exciting and lead to some amazing finishes and interesting situations. I also would not mind a computer based system choosing the 96 teams rather than specific Athletic Directors of different schools across the nation, lets just come up with a formula that takes into consideration all the concepts that the committee says they look at as the criteria for the field. Some of the ideas that would need to be included in the formula are: the concepts behind RPI, conference record and schedule, experience/seniority, previous tournament record with current team, non-conference schedule [important is both home and away] and most importantly who you have played [basically strength of schedule both for and against].
My feeling that doing this type of change to the bracket would add more excitement [not sure that is possible based on the type of hype already created by the "bracket"], add more parody to an already crazy process and give every single team their fair chance at cutting down the nets. This is a very scrutinized topic, but i believe there is no real negative to adding more teams; I understand the concept behind having only the successful and truly competent teams compete to win it all, but when UAB was given the play-in game 12th seed for this years tournament, you did not hear them complaining that they were not Missouri or Utah State [who were already in the bracket and did not need to play a play-in game]. They had no problem playing that game against Clemson and that is because they were given their fair chance to compete in the bracket, and then they lost and now they are done for the year, fair and fair.
I would like to look at the bracket from a locations stand point before we key in on some specific games. In my opinion, location is almost as big as experience and talent when it comes to the first two rounds of March Madness. For example, you have teams like North Carolina and Ohio State playing Charlotte and Cleveland respectively, while you have teams like St. John's and UCLA who have to travel across the country to Tampa and Denver, both as lower seeds in their match ups.
Here is a list of some potential first round upsets based on numerous factors:
Richmond Spiders over Vanderbilt Commodores
Utah State Aggies over Kansas State Wildcats
Belmont Bruins over Wisconsin Badgers
Memphis Tigers over Arizona Wildcats
Oakland Grizzlies over Texas Longhorns and a few more I see advantages all over the bracket
Here are the questions and statements going into the tournament I will be looking at:
How will Jimmer Fredette fare in the tournament without Brandon Davies?
Florida was given the number two seed, some people have said that was extremely generous by the committee; now they play two games in the state of Florida then go to New Orleans.
Will San Diego State live up to the softer side of the bracket with their first two match ups in Tuscon and then going to Anaheim and then Houston; the Aztecs never have to go east of Houston for this entire process and with the experience of Steve Fisher behind them, I think they are very dangerous.
The Xavier-Marquette, Cincinnati-Missouri and Texas A&M-Florida State first round match ups are very intriguing with all of these teams possibly having a run in them.
Where will the first one seed fall this year? Will a 14/15/16 seed team win a game this year? Will a double-digit seed make a run past the Sweet Sixteen?
Here are some potential match ups I am looking at later in the bracket that would without a doubt spark a lot of interest:
Duke-Michigan: 2nd round of West
Notre Dame-Purdue: sweet sixteen of South West
St. John's-BYU: 2nd round of South East
Texas-Arizona: 2nd round of West
North Carolina-Washington: 2nd round of East
Duke-Texas: sweet sixteen of West
Syracuse-North Carolina: sweet sixteen of East
Kansas-Kansas State: final four
UNC-Duke: final four