Monday, March 12, 2012

Play-In Games

I hate play-in games. Or as the NCAA likes to call it: The First Four. I hate them. They're holding up my bracket. I can't complete it quite yet because I'm reduced to racking my brains over whether BYU or Iona is going to win to face Marquette.

These play-in games are a huge inconvenience. They used to not matter when there was only one play-in game between two 16-seeds. Back then, when the tourney field was just 65, the winner of the play-in game in Dayton did not matter, because they were going to lose to whichever #1 seed they ended up facing anyway. Now, these play-in games have a huge impact on the brackets and are making life very difficult for bracketologists  and fans (like me) everywhere.

The two play-in games that are keeping me awake at night are Cal vs. USF  for the right to play Temple and Iona vs. BYU for the right to play Marquette. These games have serious implications for the rest of the tournament. If Cal beats USF, then I believe they will lose to Temple. However, if USF wins, I think they'll beat Temple. A similar situation occurs in the BYU vs. Iona game. If BYU wins, they're gonna lose to Marquette hands down. On the flip side, if Iona wins, I have them beating Marquette and then Murray State (for now - subject to change)  much like VCU made their run last year.

The fact of the matter is, these play-in games are a terrible idea. Not only do they affect the fan bracketology experience, they give an unfair advantage to certain teams in the tournament. Don't you think Temple would like to know their opponent prior to Wednesday's play-in game just like fellow #5s Vanderbilt, Wichita State, and New Mexico do? Those other three #5s get a few more days to prepare for their opponent whereas Temple just has to wait and see. Don't you think that'd make a difference in the result?

The play-in games do give certain teams an opportunity that they wouldn't have had otherwise (see: VCU 2011), but on the whole, they suck for the fans and the teams. I have to sit here waiting for which team will face Marquette (which could make a huge difference as I see it) and that keeps my bracket on hold. I'll only get it finished on Wednesday.

The NCAA should never have expanded the field to 68 teams. Such a clunky number of teams gives way to this ridiculous format that we have now. March Madness used to be the best sporting event in the country. Now, not so much. It got a little worse last year.

Note: My bracket will be posted after the conclusion of the 4 play-in games.

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