This might sound homerish, but I have been thinking about this for a long time. The NCAA Tournament needs to be expanded. Not to the 96 or 128 that everyone is talking about, but to 72. By expanding the tournament to 72 it will do a couple things, make the 1st round more competitive, give the really small schools (i.e. Vermont, Binghamton, Manhattan etc) a chance at playing more than 1 game, it also will allow more mid majors the opportunity to get in the tournament, and finally it will make sure that the "best 64" make it to that first weekend.
The idea would be to seed the teams 1-18 much they way the seeding is currently done today. Seeds 15-18 in every region would be involved in a play in game held on Tuesday night before the tournament starts. This creates 8 games played at 4 sites, which could be done a couple of ways. The Tournament could reward the 15 seed of each region with homecourt, or they could choose pre-determined neutral sites much like the way it is now with the play-in game. The benefit to rewarding the 15 seed would be atmosphere, excitement and less travel costs for one team, but on the flip side a neutral court keeps the integrity of the tournament in tact. By expanding to 18 in each region and having these lower echelon teams (that usually just get pounded by the 1-2 seeds) play each other it will make the 1st round more competitive. The last 16 teams in the tournament are usually very similar, small schools out of a 1 bid conference that lack talent and size. By making them play each other it will create a survival of the fittest element out of these small schools while allowing them to experience the "win and advance" aspect of the tournament, and I believe the experience would make each of these teams better prepared for that traditional first round game.
By expanding the tournament, you simply move the bottom 16 automatic qualifiers down a couple lines and move more quality teams into the 13-14 seeds. The way the tournament is today, most of the "last teams in" are seeded in the 11-12 seeds. With this expansion you would have the "last teams in" seeded 13-14. This would make the 3-14 and 4-13 games much more competitive, which would create more of the cinderella story that the NCAA so deeply loves. The bottom line is that by expanding the tournament it would ensure that the best 64 are in the tournament through the process of selecting 7 more at large bids to get in the tournament.
Curious to hear what everyones thoughts are on this topic.
Step 1: @Wisconsin; @Purdue; v.MSU - The important thing here is to secure 1 win. 2 wins would be great, but not likely. Winning 1 of these 3 would keep Michigan's NCAA tournament hopes off life support and makes the next stretch of games all the more important.
Step 2: v.Iowa; @Northwestern; v.Wisconsin; @Minnesota - This will be the point in the season where we look back and say, "Michigan played their way into the tournament here." Or we will say, "That stretch sealed their fate, and popped the bubble." Iowa is obviously a must win. The game @NW will be intriguing. How will Michigan counter the 1-3-1 trap that NW sprung with great success. In all honesty, if Beilein figures a counter to the trap into the gameplan and it works, no reason we can't come away with a victory here. The Wisconsin game will be a huge game at home, and an important chance to secure a RPI top 25 victory. The benefit of this game would likely be similar to that of the Purdue game last year. Win and you set yourself up for a chance at making a run at the bubble. Lose and it might be over. I just feel like Michigan will show up in this game. We haven't beat Wisconsin in a while and with Jon Leurer out, our chances increase dramatically. @Minnesota, we match up well with Minnesota as evidence take last year. Minnesota struggles to play a half court game, if Michigan controls the tempo they at least have a punchers chance. Given all that I think its important to go 3-1 in this stretch with one of those wins coming against Wisconsin.
Step 3: @Iowa; v.Penn St.; v.Illinois - Michigan can't afford any more bad road losses (like Indiana). Take care of business and move on. Same goes for games at home against inferior opponents. That takes us to Illinois, who is a poor match up for Michigan, but at the same time this is a winnable game. If Sims shows up and plays to his capabilities we can take this game as well. Probably need to go 3-0 in this stretch, which is by far the easiest of the 5 steps.
Step 4: @OSU; v.Minnesota; @MSU - Tough way to end the regular season. If Michigan takes care of the first 3 steps they only need to win 1 game in this stretch. Seems like the Minnesota game would be the best opportunity for that.
So assuming Michigan goes 1-2, 3-1, 3-0, and 1-2 in those 4 stretches of games that leaves this team at 18-12 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten. Probably not enough to push them in the tournament, but definitely enough to get them on the bubble. They would most likely be the 4 or 5 seed with that finish and get a first round bye and a chance at a quality neutral court victory in the BTT quarterfinals. Most likely against Ohio State, Illinois or Minnesota.
Step 5: win 1 game in the BTT and that finishes the season at 19-13, with probably 6-7 wins over RPI top 50 teams, the exact same as they had last year.
Its not foolproof, as many analysts will say that the bubble is a year to year thing, sometimes it is harder to make the tournament than other times. Small 1 bid conference tournaments will more than likely determine our fate, given the current assumptions. I really think this team has a shot to get hot, they still haven't played their best basketball. Go Blue!
9. Houston Baptist's roster contains 8 players that have transferred from other programs, with 4 of those players being starters. Their nickname is the Huskies.
8. This is Houston Baptist's 3rd year as an NCAA Division I team. They spent the previous 15 years in the NAIA.
7. Houston Baptist finished last year 5-25 and lost their top 4 scorers.
6. The starting combo guard for Houston Baptist is Wendell Preadom. Wendell transferred from Wichita State, presumably because of lack of playing time. He played in nearly every game their in his first 3 seasons, but never started more than 3 games in a season. He was part of the Shocker's team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2006.
5. Mario Flaherty is their starting Center. He was named to the JUCO top 100 Honorable Mention list in 2007. He also holds the record for rebounds in a career at his JUCO school (Skyline College) at 349 in 2 seasons.
4. Houston Baptist was an NAIA power under Ron Cottrell. He resurrected the program after 2 years of absence. He began coaching there in 1991 and since then has posted a record of 379-208.
3. In 2002-03 Houston Baptist averaged 100.4 points per game.
2. They currently average 56.7 points per game. They are 0-3, dropping contests to S. Alabama, Sacramento State, and Rice during a 3 day tournament hosted by Rice.
1. Mario Flaherty might be their best all around player averaging 13 ppg and 9 rpg. However, Andrew Gonzalez is a small forward that will probably be their go to guy on offense. He averages 11 points per game.
I know that was a little more than 10 facts, but I was bored at work. GET TO CRISLER ON FRIDAY!!!!!!!! Go Blue!