The most frustrating part about this season’s NCAA Tournament is not that the bubble is equal parts weak and confusing.
No, the biggest issue this year is the fact that so many quality mid-major teams are going to end up in the NIT thanks to a poor performance in their conference tournaments.
The latest victim is Nevada. The Wolf Pack dug themselves a 15 point hole in the first half against Louisiana Tech but scrapped their way back into the game with a pressuring man-to-man defense. After taking the lead in the final minutes, Nevada fell back into a zone, and Tech was able to score on their final six possessions, going on to win 78-73.
How they lost isn’t what’s important here.
What matters is the fact that Nevada will join the likes of Drexel, Iona, Middle Tennessee State and Oral Roberts (and Washington?) as quality mid-major teams that could do some damage in the NCAA Tournament but will be forced to sweat out Selection Sunday with the rest of the bubble.
I raised this question over on my blog last week, but the question deserves a larger audience: should we change the NCAA Tournament format to allow regular season conference champs to receive an automatic bid?
My initial response was no. I love Championship Week and the conference tournaments as much as anyone. But isn’t there a way we could incorporate both into our postseason format? Here’s my idea:
– Expand the NCAA Tournament. Make it a 72 team tournament — it may need to be more — which means there will be eight play-in games.
– Give the regular season winner of every conference an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Give the winner of every conference tournament a bid to the NCAA Tournament. If you win both, you get immunity from a play-in game.
– Force all play-in games to be between either the winners of conference tournaments or bubble teams. This is where it gets tricky (and where this theory could use some outside input). The way I see it, how many play-in games there are for 16 seeds will be at the committee’s discretion. If there are upsets in a whole bunch of the low-major conferences, then the number of play-in games for a 16 seed will be higher than if the favorites win in all of them.
– Every other spot in the field gets filled by bubble teams. How many spots there are available will vary form year to year.
My question to you: is this something that could work? Is this something you would want to see? Don’t be afraid to provide your input in the comments.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.