When I was in high school and college I was all in on the complaining about the NCAA tournament field. Back in those days there really weren’t analytics. There were no bracketologists. The arguments seemed more legitimate and I have no doubt they were.
Almost forty years later the bracket is so much better but people still get upset every year. Complaining about the bracket has become a tradition like eating cinnamon rolls after opening presents on Christmas morning in our house. Regardless the reason for the complaining, it has become old, tired and mostly wrong.
Every year on the night the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed we have to listen to somebody complain about some school that was wrongly left out of the tournament. If any conference was not given an automatic birth and the team that felt they were wrongly excluded was in one of those conferences I would gladly listen to and agree with them. However, the tournament now has 68 teams. Every conference gets an automatic bid. No team left out of the tournament should say they should have been included.
Every team has an opportunity to participate in the big dance. If you want to guarantee your spot then you need to earn your conference’s automatic bid. Unfortunately, all conferences award their automatic bid to the winner of the post-season conference tournament. This causes some small conference teams who have terrific records to be left out of the NCAA tournament if they slip up in their conference tournament. Those schools need to try to change who gets the automatic bid in their conference. You might say they can’t because the conference wants the money that goes along with the conference tournament. That’s fine but it shows us that the conference puts the money they earn in the tournament above everything else.
I don’t pretend to know or even care to research how much these one-bid conferences make on their conference tournament. They must feel that it is worth more than the money their regular season champion would bring to the conference if it advanced in the NCAA tournament. Regardless, if your school is in one of these one-bid leagues, they can still make the NCAA tournament. They just need to win their conference tournament.
And maybe one way to look at the process is like this. If you aren’t certain that you have the resume to get an at-large selection, then your NCAA tournament begins with your conference tournament. You can lose every game prior to your conference tournament (in most conferences) and still make the NCAA tournament if you get hot at the right time.
Another common argument occurs when a #1 seed has to play a lower seed at a location that favors the lower seed. There are a heck of a lot of teams in the tournament. The committee should be trying to stick to the natural S-curve as much as possible with seeding. Games have to be played somewhere and those sites are determined years in advance.
The discussion this year is about #1 North Carolina possibly having to play #4 Kansas in Kansas City. As a Kansas graduate, let me inform you that playing in Kansas City is far from a guarantee for the Jayhawks. I have seen too many NCAA tournament losses in Kansas City. Oh, and Iowa State just beat up Kansas in the same building the Jayhawks could be playing the Tar Heels. And North Carolina is a lot better than Kansas this season. Location won’t be the issue if Kansas defeats North Carolina. And let’s just see if Kansas even makes it to Kansas City to play North Carolina. Kansas is a weak #4 seed and could struggle in either of the two games they would have to win to force this matchup.
So many want to start making excuses for their team before they ever play a game. Each team controls their own destiny to get into and advance in the tournament. There is no voting that can eliminate your team from winning the championship. College football teams can complain about not having a chance to win a championship College basketball teams have no excuses.
While it’s easy to find something to complain about a couple of things are true. Each team controls its entry into and advancement in the NCAA tournament. The team that play better on a given day will advance. If you lose it was because your team is weak in some way or the other team was just stronger overall. It’s ok to lose in the tournament. That doesn’t make the tournament setup wrong.
The NCAA selection committee does much better these days. It’s ok to look at ways to improve the process. Just stop the whining about what we get each year. At 9 these complaints seemed and were justifiable. Approaching 49 I see the improvements made and now see the complaints as old, tired and mostly wrong.