Bill Brill responds to Chip Bremer's recent contribution about the NCAA tournament reforms
I understand where Chip Bremer is coming from, and I will neither agree or disagree, because he is correct on several premises. However, to clear up any misunderstanding, the committee did react to criticism from presidents, concerned about the amount of missed class time.
Maryland never went home until after the Final Four. UCLA and Southern Cal came east and stayed until they lost. It wasn't a matter of money -- the NCAA pays all expenses, including charters. It may well be that the schools lose money if they have to pay for the off days, Monday, Tuesday and in half the cases, Wednesday. I don't know the answer to that.
I agree with Chip that upsets will be reduced. Women's top 16 seeds play twice at home and upsets are very rare. This isn't the same thing, but it's headed in that direction.
Reality, however, is that the major upsets almost always happen in the first two rounds. They are rare in the Sweet 16 and even more rare in the regional finals (except for 2000, when lousy seeding on the part of the committee led UNC and Wisconsin to the Final Four). It is accurate that more fans will be able to see the top teams play close to home. That will fill the unfilled arenas, but the revenue from ticket sales is virtually meaningless because the real money comes from CBS. The atmosphere is likely to be enhanced. I submit that Georgetown-Maryland being played in D.C. would have been awesome, instead of in California.
It's also accurate that there was criticism for Maryland, Georgetown, George Mason and Hampton all ending up in Boise. To the average observer, that makes no sense. Costs will be cut somewhat by keeping the top seeds at home, but that's not why it was done. The lower teams will travel, but they've always been eligible to travel.
The committee actually is taking the top 20 teams (No. 5 seeds are being treated just like No. 4s, as they should be, because they often are switched to make the pairing rules work). These teams not only will be allowed to play close to home, but also the committee won't place a top team in an unfair atmosphere, meaning I'm not sure UNC-Greensboro would have been allowed to play in Greensboro against Duke, as has been presumed.
There is no question the committee is favoring the big boys. Those indeed are the cash cows. But, realistically, the others weren't going to stay on the road for 17 days (that's what N.C. State did in 1983 in the West).
Like it or not, and I understand why Chip doesn't, the committee reacted to criticism about too much travel and missed classes in a sport with a lousy-enough graduation rate. Check out Maryland, Arizona, Cincinnati, etc. At least one potential excuse is being eliminated.
I agree that the beauty of the event is what Hampton did to Iowa State, what Gonzaga has done in recent years. That almost certainly will not happen as often, and that's a shame. But reducing travel and missed classes is judged a reward for a top seed, and it's hard to argue with that. For once, money was NOT a primary factor.