An Early Start to March Madness

An Early Start to March Madness

Last Saturday, for the first time ever, the selection committee for the Division I NCAA men’s basketball tournament gave a sneak peek of what to expect when the ever-popular March Madness rolls around next month.  The committee, which is made up of athletic directors from various institutions, released the top four seeds in each of the four regions (top 16 overall) in a nationally televised production on CBS.  The reveal is meant to give an idea of what the committee is thinking as the college basketball season heads down the homestretch, with conference tournaments and Selection Sunday rapidly approaching.  The official NCAA Tournament field of 68 will be announced on March 12th.  The idea and hope behind the early bracket reveal is that it will generate more buzz and discussion across the country about March Madness in the final weeks of the regular season.  Furthermore, from the more practical side, this can give teams an idea of where they stand in the committee’s eyes.  This is a far more accurate gauge than the weekly Top 25 rankings, which are not done by the selection committee.  Teams now know if their resume is looking good or needs more work in the final games of the season.  Some lauded the idea, as it takes after college football’s weekly ranking releases in the final weeks of the season leading up to the college football playoff.  The hope is that the basketball reveal generates as much interest as the football one, which has been successful since its implementation a few years ago.  Arizona coach Sean Miller said that revealing their thinking early holds the committee accountable for their decisions, no doubt stressing the importance of consistency between this reveal and the official reveal on March 12th.  Others, such as John Feinstein, think this first-ever early bracket reveal should be the last one.  He and others, including some coaches, think that it is simply a publicity stunt because so much can change over the next month in college basketball.  In the past, some teams have gone from solidly in the tournament field (according to projections by bracketologists) to out completely in the final weeks of the season.  Therefore, critics say that it is not of much use to know who the top 16 teams are right now, when things are no doubt going to change several times before Selection Sunday.  Additionally, in revealing only the top four seeds in each region, the other 52 teams that will fill out the field are left in the dark as to where they stand, particularly mid-major teams and those schools who are on the bubble.  Overall, I think revealing the top 16 early for the first time ever was a good idea, and there is a happy-medium to make both sides happy.  Perhaps instead of revealing just the top 16, the committee should release their entire thinking in the future, including illustrating who is on the right and wrong side of the bubble when it comes to making or missing the tournament.  Additionally, if it was feasible, the committee should release more than just one early bracket reveal.  Revealing the bracket two or three times before Selection Sunday could help to nullify the concerns over how much the seeding will change over the course of the month since fans would be updated more frequently on the committee’s thinking at any given time.  This would take after the aforementioned college football committee, which releases updated top 25 rankings on a weekly basis over the final several weeks of the college football season.  I understand some would say the early bracket reveals would ruin the suspense and drama surrounding Selection Sunday, but if the committee and others in college basketball think revealing the top 16 of the bracket early is a worthwhile endeavor, they need to be all in.  Given the wide-ranging opinions on each end of the spectrum, it seems those in college basketball are only half-in by revealing only the top 16 an entire month before the official bracket is released.  As some coaches have said, so much can change in a whole month that it basically renders the innovate idea of the early bracket reveal useless.  It will be interesting to see what comes of last Saturday’s release and what happens going forward.  Will we see more early starts to March Madness?

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