Saturday, March 30, 2013

Improving the NCAA Basketball Tournament - Earning/Losing At-Large Bids

I've said this before, but Wichita State's run to the Final Four brings the issue into sharp focus - so I'll throw the idea out for consideration.


Every year, several conferences get an outrageous number of at-large bids; every year, we see those teams fail to play to the level at which they were seeded.  It's time for those kind of choke jobs to carry tangible consequences for the conferences.  Let's not forget that MILLIONS of dollars are riding on at-large bids, because tournament revenues are funneled through the conferences, NOT the individual schools.

So, let's take a look at the two conferences represented by Wichita State and Ohio State.  For purposes of this experiment, let's say that a "bad loss" is a loss to a team seeded more than two spots lower; that way, #8/#9 matchups and "First Four" (blech) games are "pick 'em" situations that don't hurt the, who took (or delivered) "bad losses" this year?

The Missouri Valley Conference received two bids; Creighton was an #7 seed, and Wichita State was a #9 seed.  As the tournament progressed, Creighton played up to its seed (they beat #10 Cincinnati and lost to #2 Duke), so that's an "expected result."  The Shockers, of course, played far above their seeding, knocking off #8 Pitt, #1 Gonzaga, #13 LaSalle and #2 Ohio State.  It's now impossible for Wichita State to suffer a "bad loss," since they'll face either #1 Louisville or #2 Duke in the national semifinal.  The MVC overperformed by seeding, delivering two "bad losses," and should be rewarded with an additional at-large bid for next year's tournament.

The Big Ten, on the other hand, has not fared quite so well.  The conference received 7 bids, but #1 Indiana took a "bad loss" to Syracuse, #2 Ohio State took a "bad loss" to Wichita State, #3 Michigan State played to its seeding, #4 Michigan overperformed by one game, #5 Wisconsin took a "bad loss" to Ole Miss, #7 Illinois played to its seed, and #11 Minnesota overperformed by one game.  The conference delivered 2 "bad losses", but underperformed by seeding and suffered 3 "bad losses" itself; the Big Ten should lose at least one at-large bid for next year's tournament.

A quick look at a few other conferences...the Sun Belt performed to its seeding with 2 teams, so they get status quo next year....the SEC overperformed by seeding and administered one "bad loss" (#13 Ole Miss over #5 Wisconsin), so the SEC gets an additional at-large in 2014...the Big East had 8 bids but underperformed, delivering 1 "bad loss" while taking 2 "bad losses" (Georgetown and Notre Dame), so they lose at least one at-large bid next year...the Moutain West's 5 bids resulted in underperformance by seeding and 3 "bad losses," so they lose at least one at-large...Harvard's overperformance and delivery of a "bad loss" brings the Ivy League a second at-large bid next can see how this plays out.

This would redirect a substantial amount of money to conferences who perform well across ALL their representatives in the tournament, give a boost to smaller conferences through the reallocation of at-large bids from underperforming "big" conferences, AND pressure the NCAA to make its seeding process more realistic.  How is this NOT a win-win-win for college basketball?

2013 NCAA Tournament Bracket - March Madness Tournament Brackets - ESPN

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