How March Madness can be even better
Outside of any bickering over whether or not a football was inflated properly –- or if hand size has anything to do with being a capable leader of the free world –- few debates are more useless than My Sport Is Better Than Your Sport.
You like what you like. Whatever gets you up in the morning.
However, there really are instances where certain sports are better than others. Make a suggestion on how to change and improve things, and you run head first into the die-hard, Goose Gossage types who love whatever game they're into and refuse to think anything needs tweaking. They don't care what others think, and they even prefer not having the whole world in on their territory - especially right now, when suggesting that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament could be even better.
SEE MORE: Past underdog winners
More pointedly: How can March Madness be improved while also making the regular season matter more?
Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament last year. Yippee. Everyone got a hat. Duke won the national title.
I might be college football boy, but my first true love – besides raspberry coconut Zingers – was college basketball. And yes, the sport really was better in the pre-Kevin Garnett era, when every big game was a clash of larger-than-life figures thanks to a system of indentured servitude that all but forced top players to hang around for at least a few years.
SEE MORE: Former March Madness hero arrested
Trust me on this – and I'm not happy about it. Not enough sports fans outside of the greater Norman metropolitan area have the first clue who Buddy Hield is, at least compared to Stacey King's Q Score in 1988.
So outside of forcing players to stay in school for a few years –- that genie isn't being put back into the bottle -- how do we fix the glitch?
Keeping this all in the realm of the possible, how can college basketball still maintain the madness and fun of what's about to happen over the next three weeks without destroying the relevancy of the regular season?
I know, I know, the serious hoopheads think everything is just fine – they're wrong, and I know this, because my three suggestions below would jack TV ratings through the roof for the entire season. I'm about to make college basketball better from November to April, and March even bigger and better. Here's how.
1. Come up with a selection committee that can do the brackets weekly
Complain all you want about different aspects of the College Football Playoff system, but give it credit for cranking up interest once the first rankings come out, and then in every subsequent week going into the final reveal.
Now that the concept of the March Madness Sunday Selection show has been blown up by a leaked bracket – and the ensuing unbridled glee by so many that the bloated two-hour CBS thing was ruined – there has to be a way to take it all to another level.
There can still be the massive final show that releases the official 68-team field, but starting in February, once a week a committee should convene – just like the College Football Playoff does it – that puts together the at-the-moment 68-team field as it looks at the moment. That way, every team knows where it stands, all the "bubble" teams know they have to step up their respective games, and the conference leaders know roughly where they'll be seeded.
But more than that, imagine the publicity. Imagine how massive the spotlight would be on college basketball once teams know what they're really playing for.
Unlike college football, college basketball rankings are absolutely worthless. This changes that, while creating a huge buzz.
2. There has to be SOME larger reward for winning a conference championship
In a Bernie Sanders system-has-to-be-radically-changed sort of way, only conference champions should get into the NCAA Tournament – and I've made the same argument for years for football, too. If you're not good enough to win your own conference, then why do you deserve a shot to win the national title?
But that's never going to happen. The NCAA Tournament will never reduce the field, and because there's so much money at stake, it's eventually going to get bigger. That will only make the regular season even more useless.
So here's how you state a larger tournament while also helping out college basketball's regular season: expand the field from 68 to 80 teams
College coaches and administrators would absolutely love this. Then, the selection committee's job would be to pick the 16 best conference champions – in most years, the American, A-10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC would easily take 11 of those spots, leaving five open to the Big Skys, MACs, Sun Belts and Horizons of the world – and they are automatically in the Round of 32.
Essentially, the 16 top conference champs will get two byes – putting a massive emphasis and importance on winning a conference title. However, there'd be a caveat here – the selection committee would get the option of choosing the regular season champion, or the tournament champ, if they're different. That way, a heater of a team that has an amazing season, but loses a fluky conference tournament game, isn't necessarily punished for its one bad day in a gimmicky post-season money-grab.
The other 64 teams in the field would have to play a Round One, and then the winners would play a Round Two to then create the Round of 32.
Talk about something to play for in the regular season and every game making a difference, this way, you could 1) get a gigantic advantage by being a major conference champion, earning your way in, or 2) still get in even if you have a rough regular season by winning your conference tournament and get an automatic bid, keeping your season alive all year long.
This would boost ratings, attention, and interest for the entire season, while not taking away a thing from the NCAA Tournament.
So that's not quite fair enough for some of the stronger teams that didn't win their conference championship? Fine ...
3. For that field of 64, home court advantage for the First Round
Again, the whole idea is to give teams something to keep fighting for during a more meaningful regular season, even if they're not going to win a conference title. For that first round of 64 teams who don't make the 16 conference champion cut, the selection committee awards the first round game for the 32 most deserving teams to be on their respective home courts.
This accomplishes a few things. 1) It makes the logistics far easier, 2) it all but guarantees a sell-out, or close to it, 3) rewards teams that came up with a great regular season, and 4) it might get some big name teams in the buildings of smaller-conference teams that would never have a shot to get a game of this magnitude at home.
So there would be a three-tier system. The 16 conference champs, the next-best 32 teams that get one home game, and then the next 32. After the first round, all games will be on a neutral site.
This creates more March Madness games, it makes everyone start watching and caring about the regular season, and it'll mean an even bigger, stronger, and more entertaining NCAA Tournament.
College basketball, I just made you zillions of dollars. Enjoy.
MORE: Campus Insiders' 2016 68 In 60 Interactive NCAA Tournament Bracket