Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

The Tournament

Sixty-five teams and only one champion.
Sixty-four teams end their season losing; yet all think of it as a success.
We made the tournament!
We’re part of the dance!

The NCAA tournament rewards teams who have had successful regular seasons and have won their conference tournaments. They’re in the money. Upwards of $250,000 for each round, with the schools, and in most cases, the coaches sharing in the wealth. The more you win, the more money you make. Most coaches have tournament incentives built into their contracts. Bonuses for getting their team to the tournament, and more money for advancing through each round.

You ever wonder why coaches jump up and down and complain about seeding? The wrong seed in a bracket can make a million dollar difference to the school and in turn, take money out of the coaches’ pocket.

The players of course, get nothing.

Isn’t there something wrong with that? The players are doing the work, getting the glory, and many times the blame, but none of the money. A college education for free is the payoff for many, and for only a few, a shot at professional basketball. Pay the players something; give them some incentive as well.

Why only sixty-five teams anyway? Why not let everybody in? It would only mean two more rounds. Two hundred fifty six teams in the tournament, everybody with a chance to win the title. Then there’s no politicking, no Dick Vitale saying who should and shouldn’t get in, no committees to select and decide between the haves and the have-nots.

Expand the tournament all the way out. Let every team in. But of course, that would mean sharing the money, splitting it up even further. It might even put less emphasis on the regular season, and render the conference tournaments meaningless. But, there’s still money in all of that, and the tournaments could help determine the seeding in what would really be a “Big Dance.” That’s what college basketball is about anyway. Getting the team ready for the stretch drive, the playoffs, the conference tournaments and March Madness.

Is there a reason the “power leagues” get a majority of the berths and the others stand on the outside looking in? Of course, the best basketball is played in the big conferences. Going 80 in ACC play is just fine. Around .500 in the SEC? No problem. But who’s to say the sixth place team in the Big Ten is better than the second place team in the TAAC?

There will be upsets in the tournament but certain factors are true. No sixteenth seed has ever won a tournament game. Two came close last year, but lost by one point. A team seeded fourth or higher has the best chance, statistically, of getting to the Final Four.

The tournament is great fun. Every game is televised so it will all unfold right in front of us. It seems every office will have a bracket pool, legal or not. Even if you’re not a basketball fan. Don’t miss it.