VETTEL: Extreme Makeover Hoops Style

The regular season is over with and now comes my least favorite and most favorite part of college basketball back to back. I don't like conference basketball tournaments, but I love the NCAA's big dance.

Conference tournaments are really lousy events for the student-athletes who in some cases might be asked to play four games in a span of less than 90 hours. This demand is never made on these kids at any other time of the season and serves primarily to line schools' pockets. They also virtually forces fans to buy tickets to a bunch of games they have no intention of going to.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is simply the greatest event in sports. Three weeks of great drama and theater, unforgettable moments building to a true championship game involves no voting, no power rankings and leaves no debate as to who's number one.

Still both tournaments could use a little tweaking. So let's tweak away.

SEC Tournament Changes

A twelve-team tournament is too large and cumbersome. So let's start by cutting back to an eight-team event. That would include all the teams that are legitimately NCAA contenders. Take the top three from each division and the two best remaining teams.

No reason to wait until Thursday. So start the event with a doubleheader Wednesday night. Another double header Thursday night would wrap up round one and lead to semi-finals on Friday night. A prime time title game on Saturday ends the weekend and lets everyone get home for the NCAA bids and focus on the real tournament.

In the interest of equal time, one rather prominent individual disagrees with me about cutting down on the teams in the SEC Tournament. So here's what Billy Donovan says:

"At the college level what you really want to be able to do is have these kids experience those type of things. I understand there's a level of "earning" a spot in the tournament, but I think that just penalizes the kids. I would be totally in favor of everybody getting into their conference tournaments. Those kids that didn't make it (the big East took 12, left four out) they work hard they play hard and they came up a little bit short. But they still deserve to have that experience of playing in a neutral site."

Donovan does, however agree that ending the tournament on Saturday makes a lot more sense than having teams receive their bid to the big dance while flying home.

NCAA Tournament Changes

Donovan also would like to see every team in the NCAA Tournament, but I'm not going to jump on that bandwagon. There are, however some simple adjustments that I believe would further enhance the event. It would cut down somewhat on missed class time and level the playing field for teams that happen to play in conference title games on Sunday.

Add three teams. The field of 65 includes one play-in game that involves a team earning the right to play a #1 seed. So let's expand the field by three and have every #1 seed face a "play-in" team. It would also give three more sites an extra game and return each of the four regionals to identical numbers of teams. This adds some opportunities for teams on "the bubble" to get in and should create some better first round games since three more of the weakest conference champions will already be eliminated.

Move first two rounds back one day. Starting on Friday (except for the play-in games will give teams more rest to get over their conference tournaments and travel. It also takes away the 16 Thursday games and replaces them with eight second-round games on Monday. The only drawback might be in making Saturday's games less attractive but the reward for the following Monday is terrific. Sure, sweet 16 teams will now have three days off instead of four but three days off is enough. And you can bump the Sweet 16 back a day, too.

Add eight first-round sites. It makes no sense to send eight teams to a single site when two of them are going to advance. Why not instead have 16 first-round sites and each will have a winner advance to the sweet 16? You'd have many more cities with a chance to host tournament action. You'd have much more of a "tournament" feel to each site since someone has to "win" the event. There's no question average attendance would go way up.

It'll cost CBS more money to have 16 crews working instead of eight but, hell I'm available. With 16 sites it would be easier to incorporate the Monday games, perhaps having one regional (four sites) start on Thursday, two more on Friday and the fourth regional play on Saturday and Monday.

So whaddya think folks?

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Have a great week.

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