NCAA needs to change First Four format
The First Four format for the NCAA Tournament was a nice addition when they instituted it in the summer of 2010; expanding the teams in the tournament from 64 to 68. The current format makes the last four at-large teams play against the last four automatic-qualifying teams.
This is a great concept, but is it really fair?
Everyone knows that life isn’t fair, but sports is something that should be, in my opinion. Yes, not everything that happens in sports can be looked at as “fair” and I am fine with that, but placing the last four automatic-qualifiers in a game against the last four teams put into the NCAA Tourney is borderline to fairness.
With the current format, excitement is still provided in the match-ups, but think about what it would feel like if you were the coach of a team that won an automatic bid into the Big Dance by winning your conference tournament. I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty angry about being placed in a play-in game, because that is what it is essentially.
So, what should be the solution to the current First Four format?
For one, I would not place any automatic-qualifiers in the First Four games. They earned the trip to the tournament, so they will be seeded accordingly. Hampton, and their losing record, should not have been playing against Manhattan yesterday because both teams won their conference tournament. Based on record, the NCAA could have made them the last two #16 seeds, which isn’t a problem. I don’t have an issue with BYU playing against Ole Miss though, unless they weren’t one of the Last Four In bubble teams.
Tonight, North Florida and Robert Morris will be facing off in one of the First Four games. But again, they both received an automatic bid based on winning their conference tournament, so they should just round out the rest of the #16 seeds in the tournament. And, in the other match-up, we have Dayton playing a home game against the Boise State Broncos, in what should be a great game. Again, I don’t have a problem with this game, as long as these two teams were part of the Last Four In.
My proposal is this: If you win your conference tournament, the NCAA Tournament Committee will seed you accordingly. Following that step, they should take who they feel is a part of the Last Eight In, and arrange them into the First Four games based on whatever they see fit to get the best match-ups out of the First Four games. This proposal gives automatic-qualifying teams the opportunity to be fresh for their Second Round games against their opponent, and rewards them for winning their conference tournament by not placing them in the First Four. You should not have to play an extra game, based on record.
The NCAA Tournament has provided so many memories throughout my life, and some amazing upsets in the process. But this current First Four format is flawed, and changes should be made.
Is my idea foolproof system that has all of the answers? Maybe not, but it’s better than the current one.
Dustin Brown covers Men’s College Basketball for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @SprtsWritingMan.