Most sports’ regular seasons mean very little. There are so many games in baseball that it is hard to be engaged early. The NBA allows half of its franchises into the playoffs. The NFL allows division champions with losing records to play in the playoffs, and so on. College basketball, as it is with college football, does have a relative sense of urgency that some of the other sports lack.
However, there are limits to that urgency. Teams play over 30 games before the NCAA Tournament begins, and 68 teams play in what is 99 percent of the country’s end goal, which is getting an invite to the Big Dance.
The sport needed more urgency, and now, it will get it.
The NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, a group in charge of selection and seeding for the NCAA tournament, announced Monday that the team awarded the top overall seed will be able to choose the location — from eight predetermined subregional sites — for its first- and second-round games.
This could — at least in theory — increase the importance of late-season games for teams fighting to be the No. 1 overall seed in the Big Dance.
To be very clear about this: This alters the trajectory of any NCAA Tournament in very minimal ways. Most programs that regularly fight for the top seed have the opening round of the Big Dance near it. Kentucky, Duke, etc., would all fight for things each regularly already receives.
It does leave room for some outside-the-box type of situations, however, some WWE heel stuff.
For teams that travel well nationally, especially when a second site isn’t far removed from a more logistically friendly one, a university can purposely attempt to bump one program away from its comfort zone.
Yes, it is unlikely to ever happen, but how brilliant — and polarizing — would it be to see John Calipari get a one-seed, and instead of choosing the site closest to home, he takes one (just as an example) in Greensboro, which can — at least in theory — force Duke to play in Lexington, or Chicago, or in a building where the 8 seed opposite the Blue Devils could have a home-court advantage.
With great power comes the opportunity to use it to the dismay of others, not just to one’s own benefit. We should totally be rooting for more pro wrestling in our sports.
As for how it alters the regular season, one has to remember that coaches are control freaks. While most of the four No. 1 seeds get slotted as close to home as is, no one actually trusts the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. By giving the very top seed the chance to set its own location, the committee is giving power-hungry coaches more power, and lord knows they will want to control as much of their own fates as humanly possible.
This means — again, in theory — that teams at the top will never take their feet off the gas toward the end of the season. This includes conference tournaments. The presumed third-best team in the country will likely fight like hell to win its league tournament in the attempt to chase down the No. 1 overall seed.
Yes, this tweak won’t affect bubble teams. This is not a complete solution in terms of adding urgency to every contending team’s late-season schedule.
Does this in any way share or form change the landscape of college basketball? Nope. Well, not until someone goes full WWE heel on us… and that will inevitably happen, because of course it will.
I can’t wait.