We haven’t had a chance to talk about Bob Huggins’ proposal to make the NCAA tournament exclusive to the major powers but it’s worth discussing.
Here’s what we think: it should and shouldn’t be done.
That obviously calls for clarification. Here goes.
The NCAA Tournament is one of the signature events in American sports specifically because schools like Richmond, Northern Iowa and, bless them, UMBC pull off thrilling upsets every March.
Kicking them out - Huggins proposes a second tournament for them - would gut the whole idea of Madness.
And honestly, who wants to see a tournament with BC, Penn State, Ole Miss and Cal?
Well, to be more precise, who wants to see a national championship tournament with those teams?
However, there’s an alternative that should be discussed and that’s an in-season tournament with the best Power Five teams and some other really good teams as well.
We’d like to see a tournament at either the beginning of the season or, better yet, at Thanksgiving or during the Christmas break, which would be useful in several ways.
First, it would generate some serious jack. Second, it would provide some focus at a time of year when teams are just ramping up. Third, if it was in December, those teams would avoid what usually happens in December, which is a loss of focus and unity. And fourth, people tend to spend most of the season (and all of the off-season) talking about who will make the field in March. This kind of event would at least dilute that somewhat.
Imagine what we’d see and learn in that sort of tournament: who’s ahead of schedule? Who’s slipping? What young players are capable of stepping up?
And consider the possible matchups: Duke vs. UCLA. Michigan vs. Baylor. Kentucky vs. Oregon. Kansas vs. Missouri. That would be amazing to watch.
And what would happen if the finals were Duke vs. UNC or Louisville vs. Kentucky? The ratings would be enormous.
For that matter, you could have one tournament to start the season, one over the holidays and then the national championship tournament at the end, where we’d see the traditional excitement we’re used to with heroic efforts from the smaller conferences and schools.