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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Sports

Why mess with success?


Did you ever wonder if Leonardo DaVinci wanted to go back and "touch up" the Mona Lisa?

You know, like a few years after he put in a frame, get the itch to just add "a little bit more blush" on her cheeks or something?

Thank god he didn't.

It's good to be able to spot perfection when you see it. And the NCAA Tournament is the sports version of the Mona Lisa.

Perfect.

Period.

This is why I am getting more and more worried now that second rate hack "painters" are picking up their brushes, with eyes on "touching up" the greatest thing going in sports.

You have probably heard some coaches openly lobby for an expanded tournament. Gary Williams of Maryland, Seth Greenberg of Virginia Tech, and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse even have rough-draft proposals ready to go if you ask them during and interview.

Their arguments are based on two basic premises.

1. I don't want to get fired.

2. "Hey, look at football!"

Okay, let's take both arguments head on.

In response to No. 1: "You're going to get fired anyway. So relax. It's the nature of the business you chose, not us. Plus, once we went to 128-team field, pretty soon AD's will say: 'Well, he was good. But, he never once got into the Top-64 seeds in the tournament. We had to make a change.' These jobs are bull rides. Hang on as long as you can, but nobody is expected to ride the bull into the sunset.

In response to No. 2: "Football is a joke." Sure, almost half the Division 1A schools make a "bowl" game, which college hoops coaches mistakenly term "the post-season." It doesn't make their system correct. It makes their system greedy. Sure, 64 teams out of 300-plus is a pretty daunting number. But, it's also why smaller schools that seldom make the Big Dance, hang banners in their gyms on the rare occasion they do.

I don't blame the coaches for this, but let's just say that they are highly self-motivated in their desire to expand March Madness. It certainly would NOT be in the interest of making the NCAA Tournament "better."

First of all, how much "better" can you make it? Where is the demand for more mediocre big-conference teams like Alabama and Kansas State? Their inclusion hardly makes the tournament any "better."

Here is why the tournament is Great - capital G - as it is, and how any sort of further "expansion" would effectively ruin it. See if you can follow me here...

1. You can fit the entire thing on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

While this may seem like nothing a good Xerox machine can't fix, the truth is the tournament is sufficiently unpredictable, but also easy enough for your office secretary to fill out a sheet. It folds neatly into your back pocket. It takes mere minutes to fill out. And the format is all laid out in front of you.

Remember a few years back, yahoos like Dick Vitale were screaming that the Final Four should be "re-seeded" to help ensure the best possible championship game?

That was idiotic.

Anything that ruins pool sheets is a bad, bad, horrible idea. While the NCAA may not want to admit it, the pool sheet IS the tournament to most casual fans. Not the actual teams. Sorry. It's true.

2. Small Schools Get the Chance to Pull Down the Pants of Big Schools

And that's really cool. Because these big schools think they invented the game. These big schools won't play the small schools 6 on 5, in their gym, with referees they stole from the Globetrotters. The big schools are mortified to lose to small schools, and as such, avoid the chance of that happening like Britney Spears avoids checking in to rehab.

Yet, when the brackets get put out, GULP. Guess who is gonna have to play you-know-who in the first round. Sweeeet!

Adding more teams MIGHT allow more mid-majors to get in the field, but chances are, that won't be the case. If the committee already favors the "bigs" over the "mediums" for 64 spots, they'll probably do the same if it were 96 or 128.

3. It's Simple, and Fair

Once all the caterwauling dies down over how high or low your team got seeded or what region you got sent to, the road to glory is laid out right in front of you. Here's who you will have to beat. Now go get it done. No excuses.

Imagine if there were a 32-team "bubble round" (just one idiotic idea e-mailed to me this week) that somehow "fed into" the 64-team bracket? How would that work? Where do you print that on the sheet? Would a team playing two extra games, for example, and re-gaining some momentum be an unfair advantage to a team just sitting around waiting to meet them?

Boil it down, and here's what the sports Mona Lisa looks like: 64 teams (I'm ignoring that pimple of a "play-in" game), three weeks of action, multiple buzzer beaters, Cinderellas all on one sheet of paper and on one TV network.

Cue "One Shining Moment." Good night everybody. See you next year.

Perfection.


Talkbacks

Jon D. | March 14, 2007 at 1:37 p.m. (report)

Nice counterpoint to Saturday's article. They already started wrecking the tournament with a "P.I.G." 64 and only 64 teams should be there and leave the Illinois' and Arkansas' at home.

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