Monday, March 12, 2012

Hey, NCAA - Let's Get Rid of At-Large Bids!

Many basketball fans (and more than a few of the talking heads in the media) make great hay from the NCAA's basketball tournament selections, especially when comparing conferences.  We spend weeks talking about "the bubble", which teams might be relegated to the "First Four" play-in games, possible seeding...and on and on and on.  Well, I'm tired of it, and a friend of mine tossed off an idea whose time may well have come.

Conference exemptions.

Imagine that a conference whose teams "outperform their seeding" in the rounds of 64, 32 and 16 earns an extra automatic bid to the next year's NCAA tournament; to be awarded by the conference, NOT the NCAA.  This would reward those conferences whose teams exceed expectations, and it would cut down on the middle- and lower-echelon teams from the 'power' conferences who always get the lion's share of at-large bids.  Let's see how last year's NCAA tournament would have affected this year's bracket...

Several major conferences performed (on the whole) in keeping with their seedings.  For instance, the SEC picked up a +1 from UK's performance as a 4-seed, but went -1 when 5-seed Vanderbilt was upset in the first round.  Ditto for the ACC: UNC performed as its #2 seed would imply, Duke cost them -1 for an early exit, and FSU gave them +1 for its upset win in the first round, so the ACC as a whole met its seedings.  Neither conference would have picked up an exemption for this year's tournament.

So, performance-against-seeding looked like this for those conference who exceeded (or failed to live up to) their various seeds:

  • CAA: +1 (VCU)
  • Pac12: +1 (Arizona)
  • OVC: +1 (Morehead State)
  • WCC: +1 (Gonazga)
  • Horizon: +1 (Butler)

Those five teams would have earned an extra "conference exemption" team in this year's field.  Who would have missed the boat?

  • Big Ten: -1 (OSU's early exit)
  • MWC: -2 (SDSU, UNLV)
  • Big12: -2 (Texas, Texas A&M)
  • Big East: -5 (St John's, Pitt, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville)

The exemptions would only be for the next year's tournament, but continued success (e.g. continued performance above seeding level) would earn exemptions for the following year.  This would give small and mid-major conferences a real chance to build their overall conference strength.

I don't know about you, but I'd certainly rather see extra teams from conferences that pull off upsets than at-large teams from "power" conferences that underperform year after year.  This year, we could have added Tennessee State (the only team to beat #9 Murray State this year) from the OVC, and BYU (from the WCC) wouldn't have to be in a play-in game; Valparaiso, upset in the Horizon League final after winning the regular season, wouldn't be banished to the NIT.

What do you think?

Hoops Heaven - The Commonwealth of Kentucky

OK, it's March and I live in Kentucky.  That means I'm in hoops heaven; the girls' State High School Tournament (*) just ended, the boys' State High School Tournament (*) is just beginning, there are two Kentucky teams still alive in the NCAA Division II tournament (Bellarmine and Kentucky Wesleyan) hosted by Northern Kentucky University, four Kentucky teams are in the NAIA Division I playoffs (Lindsey Wilson, Cumberlands, Georgetown and Campbellsville), and the NCAA Division I tournament (with Western Kentucky, Louisville, Kentucky and Murray State) starts later this week, with UK playing in Louisville.  There's a LOT of good basketball in the Commonwealth; it isn't all just Wildcats and Cardinals.

I don't think there's any doubt that, for these three weeks, Kentucky is the center of the basketball universe.

(*) Kentucky is one of only two states (Delaware is the other) that holds a single postseason for high school basketball.  There are no "Class 1A", "Class 2A", etc. to be found in Kentucky high school hoops; every high school in the state competes for a single state championship.  That makes it small town (pop. 1400) put up signs celebrating our high school's 1937 state championship...last year.  The school no longer exists, having been consolidated into the county high school decades ago, but memories are long when it comes to basketball.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Today's #MPFreebie - Music from SxSW

Most "technology folks" think of South by Southwest (SxSW) as a media/technology conference, but it began its long-lived run as a music festival.  It has stayed true to its founding ever since, even as it has grown to include SxSW Film and SxSW Interactive.  Given its massive attendance (over 12000 registrants last year) and incredible performances (over 2000 artists/groups at over 90 venues), it seems a safe bet to name SxSW as one of the largest music festivals in the US, if not the world.

As one might imagine, SxSW has become a MAJOR focal point for independent artists and record labels.  Each year, indie labels (and/or collectives of multiple labels) create MP3 samplers of the artists bound for SxSW.  In addition, they take a laissez-faire attitude toward third-party collections and playlists; it's all about the music.  Needless to say, this gives the digital collector a fine chance to add variety and "new sounds" to their collection.  As far as I'm concerned, this is a great source for music/artists I'd otherwise miss (sitting in Central Kentucky - hardly a hotbed for touring groups)...

I've provided links to several SxSW MP3 samplers below - enjoy!


Canadian Blast: Canadian Blast SXSW 2012 Digital Sampler

SxSW 2012 Music Sampler from SxSWBABY

IODA at SxSW Opening Day Bash 2012

Don't Mess with Texas: SxSW 2012 New Music Sampler