The field of 68 has been set.
Fans are in a frenzy for their team to survive and advance on either Thursday or Friday — the true First Round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. That being said, does anyone else wonder what the heck the First Four is all about? And why on God’s green Earth was it implemented in 2011? Even further, why was there even a 65-team format prior to 2011? The First Four games should not be counted as the First Round of the Tourney. Let’s face the facts, ladies and gentlemen. They’re play-in games.
Dear Selection Committee, let’s take the 64 best teams in America and lock them in the Big Dance. . . Simple as that. And doesn’t the current landscape honor postseason tournament champions? Yes, it does. If you win your conferences postseason title, you’ll most definitely be in the field of 64. It’s an automatic bid to the Madness of March. Well, it should be. That’s how it was meant to be. That’s why the NCAA Tourney is the best sporting event in the galaxy.
Now, eight programs that were essentially left out of the Tourney altogether get to play an extra game on Tuesday or Wednesday in order to punch a ticket to go Dancing.
Some of those teams won their conferences postseason tournament outright. It’s not fair to any program. Really. . . They must play an extra game. Then, turn around and play with just one day of preparation for their true First Round opponent. And if you lose, you’re done. Can I get a “C’mon man”?
Goodness gracious. Why is it even called the First Four? Clearly, by definition it’s the Last Four. There you go — I’m coining these play-in games the Last Four.
Here’s what we know. All of the these games will be played in Dayton, OH.
3/13 — No.16 LIU Brooklyn vs. No.16 Radford — 6:40 PM EST
On Tuesday night, we get to watch the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (Northeast Conference Champs) battle the Radford Highlanders (Big South Champs) for the right to earn a No. 16-seed. That’s correct. The winning programs’ prize is a ticket to play No. 1-seeded Villanova with just one day off for rest and travel to Pittsburgh, PA. To date, the Tourney has never seen a No. 16 knock-off a No. 1 — with less rest and preparation than Nova, the No. 16-seed that advances between LIU and Radford will have a largely reduced chance to produce a monumental upset. And you can’t tell me that an upset like that wouldn’t be a great thing for college hoops.
Check out Radford’s clutch, dagger triple to win the Big South.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge Villanova fan; however, you simply must give the opposition a puncher’s chance. Wouldn’t you agree? Folks, we’ve seen multiple No. 2-seeds get dropped by No. 15-seeds over the years. And eventually, a No. 1 is going to get beat by a No. 16 in the First Round. But, this First Four “Last Four” format is dampening the chances that it’ll happen.
The nightcap on Tuesday:
3/13 — No.11 St. Bonaventure vs. No.11 UCLA — 9:10 PM EST
The winner of this matchup gets to play the No. 6-seeded Florida Gators in Dallas, TX on Thursday night. And common sense tells me that it’s a relatively long flight from Dayton to Dallas. Facing the facts, there are plenty of Power 5 conference teams that received at-large bids to the tournament that should’ve been left out. Several teams from the Power 5 that made the field finished under .500 in their own conference during the regular-season. Wow!
In my opinion, if there were less Power 5 teams and more deserving mid-major teams in the NCAA Tournament, it’d be even better than it already is.
3/14 — No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 16 North Carolina Central — 6:40 PM EST
3/14 — No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Syracuse — 9:10 PM EST
The victor of the early matchup will face No. 1-seeded Xavier in Nashville, TN on Friday evening. Yikes! In Wednesday’s nightcap, the team that seals the “W” will get No. 6-seeded TCU in Detroit, MI on Friday.
So, let’s give love to the mid-major programs that won their postseason conference championship, and leave out a few undeserving Power 5 programs. It’d be the right and fair thing to do, and we wouldn’t have to talk about the First Four “Last Four” anymore. Wouldn’t that be nice?