New 68-team NCAA Tournament field unfair for first time

The NCAA has already put a mustache on the Mona Lisa. At least us basketball fans were spared of a fu manchu.

On Monday, the NCAA unveiled its plan for the new 68-team tournament, and it is as awkward and unnecessary as short-shorts on Gheorghe Muresan.

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There will be four play-in games, two of them pitting potential 16 seeds, and the other two matching up the last four teams placed into the bracket.

For example, last year Winthrop would have played Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Lehigh would have faced Vermont, with the two winners earning number 16 seeds and advancing to play the top two number 1 seeds in the field.

The other two games would have involved a team like UTEP, a number 12 seed, matching up against a team like Virginia Tech, which was one of the last teams left out of last year’s NCAA field.

The new tournament field is as uncomfortable as Big Gheorghe in short shorts. Photo courtesy:

Was this at all necessary? Of course not.

Will it be good for the tournament? Only if you don’t mind the fact that filling out your bracket will now require a Ph.D.

Now you will have to decide, for example, who the 12-seed in the South is going to be, before you determine if they can make a run to the Sweet 16.

Teams like George Mason, who made a run to the Final Four in 2006 as an 11-seed, will have to play five games instead of four to reach the National Semifinals.

This kind of inequity has never before been part of the tournament. And it could wreak havoc on potential Cinderella stories.

Would the Patriots have had enough gas in the tank to upset Connecticut in the ’06 Elite Eight if they had to play an extra game just to get to that round?

And what about their opponents, the 4 and 5-seeds who will now have less time to prepare for their first-round matchup than other teams in their region?

But perhaps the biggest losers in all of this will be the champions of the small conferences such as the Northeast Conference, and America East.

Instead of taking on the big boys in a once-in-a-lifetime appearance on CBS, half of the 16-seeds will be going home after getting beaten by another small-conference school on Tru TV.

Bracketology just got a little harder. And a little less fun.


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