NCAA Unveils 68-Team Tournament Format

Brian: On Monday afternoon, the details of the much-anticipated 68-team NCAA Tournament field were released. It appears it’s going to be a Chinese menu type of offering for college hoops fans – a little of this, and a little of that.

"The final four at-large teams and final four automatic qualifiers in the newly minted 68-team NCAA men's basketball tournament field will meet for the right to enter the traditional 64-team draw, tournament selection committee chairman Dan Guerrero announced Monday.

The "First Four" will be played either the Tuesday or Wednesday after Selection Sunday. The winners of the four games will advance to what will now be called the "second round" on either Thursday or Friday. The newly named third round -- with 16 games -- will be Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the tournament -- regional semifinals (Sweet 16) and regional finals (Elite Eight) -- will remain as they have been, as will the Final Four, which is set for Houston in 2011.

The games will be televised on TruTv (formerly CourtTV), which is available in 93 million homes, said NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen, who manages the NCAA tournament.

[snip]

Guerrero and Shaheen said the last four at-large teams would be put on the seed line the committee decided they earned. So, this could mean that two could be considered No. 12 seeds playing for the right to play a No. 5 and two could be No. 11s vying to play a No. 6 in the second round."

Did the NCAA get this one right? Your thoughts?

Jeff: I think I like this a lot. If auto bids played each other in these first four games, it would basically be saying that the bottom half of the automatic qualifiers are not truly worthy of being in the tournament. Given their track record that is not far from the truth. But that is also because those #16 and #15 seeds are always playing one of the top 8 teams in the country in their first round game which many good teams would struggle against.

Now, if you are an at-large team that ends up in these games, you did make the tournament but you are going to end up playing a #1 seed in your second round game. This is basically a two game tournament for the last four in now. Instead of arguing who was the first team left out of the tournament completely (has been Boston College before and probably will be sometime again), we'll be debating and arguing over which team should've been part of the bottom four at larges on the day after the selection show and I can see BC falling into this role sometime in the next few years. If you do not end up in the bottom four, you will probably face a #4 or #5 seed in the second round. That is a huge difference between playing a #1 seed in the second round.

Even though I do like this format they have chosen, it is far from a perfect solution, because there isn't one.

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