Tuesday, March 16, 2010

96 ways to kill a good thing

So we're going to get 96 teams.

I will gripe only once in a general sense: John Feinstein had it right when he pointed out that the NCAA is so stupid it's literally doing the exact opposite of what makes sense--they refuse to address their football championship system which is clearly the worst champion-picking exercise of any major sporting season, college or pro.  At the same time they are messing with arguably the greatest sporting spectacle EVER DEVISED.  I don't even mean that facetiously, it's possible that March Madness is more fun for the serious-down-to-casual fan of anything yet devised in sports.

And now they are going to add tons of mediocre-to-bad teams.  But my main reason for bringing this up is an aspect to this travesty that I haven't seen discussed yet: what does this do to filling out brackets?  64 teams is hard to bracketize as it is, but it can be done with a single piece of 11.5 x 8 inch paper if you write small.  It can be integrated into a website form if it's done well.  When you make it one round bigger it's going to be harder to manage.  Not impossible, but you aren't going to carry around your bracket in as pleasant a way anymore.

If that's the case, does it make the 96-team tournament really unfriendly to the casual fan?  Is my mother, who has actually filled out brackets before, ever going to sit down long enough to decide if the 8th place Big-Ten team might beat the third best Mountain West school?  No way.  A 96-team bracket makes the obscure match-ups just that much more abstract to people on the margins of caring.

The office pool goes from something fun for $5 to an annoyance to deal with... that will be as hard on the popularity of the event as anything.

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