Are we at madness or is it all just maddening? Yes. What I mean is it's a little of both. If we're talking about the Colonial Athletic Association or the American East, then March Madness begins with the conference tournament because only one school gets to the dance and that is the tournament champ. So in essence, the NCAA tournament begins with the tipoff of the conference tourney. If it's the Big Twelve or Pac-12 or any other power conference, it's just plain maddening. So a .500 conference record turns a little better and an Alabama ends up beating out a Minnesota for an NCAA tournament berth. Big deal.It's a zero sum game with very little overall benefit for the basketball fan. None of them really have a prayer of winning the national championship, just a shifting of number eight and nine seeds from one power conference also-ran to another.
In an era when teams play sixteen to eighteen conference games, do we really need them to add another two or three on top of that? Probably not. I would rather see more games between top non-conference opponents than another round of games involving opponents that are familiar with each other. In the era of eight team conferences, maybe the tournaments were a welcome addition to the regular season. But the glut of conference games and the myriad of tournament formats has added confusion and frankly, an overload of meaningless contests.
Does it make sense to do away with the conference tournaments, seed all 351 teams and just add a week to the NCAA tournament? Okay, maybe it's far-fetched, but think about it. Most conference tournaments require teams to win at least three games to capture a conference crown and the ticket to the dance. So why not just eliminate the conference tournaments and use those sites as NCAA tournament locations and include every team? I know this isn't an original idea, but it's one that I think merits genuine consideration. No one watches the Western Athletic Conference tournament from start to finish. But if the last place team in that league is playing Duke in a first round game, it'll definitely generate interest. Just think about this. We could actually expand the NCAA tournament to 256 teams and only add one more round, if you count the play-in games to get from 68 to 64 teams as a full round. So even though it sounds a bit extreme, it really wouldn't take all that much to pull it off. In fact, you'd end up with the top 160 teams or so getting a first round bye. Now talk about your March Madness!