Thursday, March 17, 2011

Defending the First Four

There has been a lot of complaining about the NCAA tournament’s First Four. Before I begin my defense of the past two day’s games, I’d like to state that I am a hard core college basketball fan. Like any hard core fan of anything, I suffer when casual fans talk about my thing. Do you think WoW players don’t go nuts when someone stands in a fire? Or that Bob Dylan fans can stand when someone complains about his nasally voice? They are missing the point that makes the thing great. So are fans who complaining about Tuesday and Wednesday night’s games.

Another admission: I like the idea of tournament expansion. I wrote about it here, but if you don’t want to read more of my words, I’ll boil it down for you: more elimination-style basketball is not a bad thing. We could just fold in the fairly useless NIT and other assorted postseason tournaments into the Big Dance. We could even call it the Bigger Dance. The casual fan said that it would be too much basketball (have they ever seen how many games there are every Saturday during the regular season) or that it was a blatant money grab by the NCAA. To the latter point, I say, “so what?” Why shouldn’t the NCAA grab as much money as they can? Wouldn’t it be un-American not to do that? The fact that they are making all of this money while keeping the money out of the pockets of the players is another matter (something I’ve also written about.)

Now, casual fans are whining about the First Four. First, there was this article on Deadspin, which asserts that the play-in games for the bubble teams ruined his bracket. Cry me a river. I am a big Bill Simmons fan, but he makes me cringe when he talks about college basketball. I listened to his podcast this morning and his complaints were that the teams were evenly matched in the First Four. Apparently, in order to facilitate his betting in the early rounds, he’d like the committee to make the games unevenly matched. He also complained about the games not being scheduled at the same time because that is a tenet of March Madness. My guess is that Simmons isn’t going to be happy when he learns about the staggered scheduling.

I guess people need a reason to whine about something. The First Four has not solved the annual outcry about teams snubbed by the committee, which wasn’t at all surprising. People love to get outraged by the bubble, don’t ask me why. Then people got upset when some of the First Four games weren’t competitive, although the first one was an excellent overtime game. VCU also had a nice showing in their win over USC. Good for them. I know a number of Ram fans who are already pleased by the First Four.

All in all, I think the First Four games came off well and added a nice wrinkle to the best sporting event on the calendar. Perhaps Georgetown and West Virginia were displeased by not knowing who they were going to play, but they come from the Big East and should be able to get by. Well, I am off to watch the “Second Round.”