Friday, April 3, 2009

What If the NCAA Brackets Were Really Regional?

The NCAA tournament is nearly drawing to a close. The most exciting part is over, and we're left with the Final Four. In my last post, we discussed the empty seats at arenas around the country, and I suggested that one possible fix was to make the brackets truly regional. Today, that's what I'll explore.

I rearranged the brackets to actually represent teams in each region of the country - West, Midwest, East, and South. I did this with as little disruption as possible. Of course, the trade off is a loss of "fairness". Currently the selection committee uses an S-shaped curve to place teams in the brackets, so that the region with the #1 seed overall will have #1, #8, #9, #16, etc in its bracket. Now things are a bit mixed up. However, is the increased regionalization worth it?

Without further ado, lets look at the hypothetical bracket:

As you can see, most of the teams really are in the correct region. All of the original seeds were kept the same, with the exception of a switch between #3 Kansas and #4 Gonzaga. Another advantage of the plan is that a lot of rival schools are in the same bracket (UNC vs. Duke, Michigan vs. Michigan St., etc). This is a double edged sword however. While this would be great theater to have rival teams clashing in the tournament, is this what people really want to see? Or would they rather see teams which rarely play?

A lot of the teams in a region would be from the same conference - for instance 5 teams from the Big 10 would be in the East regional, with the South regional would be dominated by the ACC. Is this a good or a bad thing? In one sense, it brings drama, but in another sense, it's redundant - especially now that every conference has a conference tournament.

An advantage is the fact that nearby schools from different conferences would get a chance to play each other. For instance, Louisville vs. Memphis would be a fun matchup for those two schools is both made it the Midwest regional finals. Siena would likely get a kick out of facing the Ohio St. giant in the first round in the East regional as well.

Overall, there are drawbacks and advantages to this plan, but perhaps a deciding advantage is that students would actually be within shouting distance of the location of their school's game, giving more interested fans a chance to see the action. And that's what the tournament should be all about.