How to make March truly mad   

Updated: March 12, 2007, 5:20 PM ET

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TO: The NCAA, Indianapolis, IN

DATE: March 8, 2007

RE: Basketball tournament

First of all, thank you for hiring us. It's a thrill to get paid to do something we'd probably be doing anyway if only to keep ourselves amused while waiting for the phone to ring. The chance to have an impact on such a monumental event is one we both relish and cherish. What follows are our preliminary thoughts on the question you posed to us: Can the greatest tournament in the country be made even better?

The Biggest Dance?
Can we safely call it the "Big Dance"? Perhaps. But couldn't it be a much bigger dance? We didn't bother to count how many colleges there are playing Division I basketball these days (we figure you know that already), but we know this much: it's a lot more than the 65 you're letting into the tournament at present. The addition of the 65th team however many years ago was a subtle indication of the direction you need to be going: inclusionarism. No, that's not a real word. At least not until this moment it wasn't. Now it's the watchword by which you will live!

Play-in, Play-out, Play-what?
Forget a two-team "play-in." What we're proposing you do is get everybody into the mix. Every single Division I team gets an automatic invitation. Make it a truly open tournament. Now that's March Madness writ large! If you think that first day of the tournament is exciting now, imagine what it would be like when every single college has a team representing it.

Say Goodbye to the NIT Menace
It's been lurking for years, waiting for its chance for the big tournament to let its guard down so it can return to the prominence it enjoyed decades ago. If you throw your tourney open to every single college in the land, then there's nobody left for the NIT to invite, is there? Kind of puts the lie to their very name, doesn't it? Away goes this threat to your primacy.

Complete Television Saturation
Here's a fun fact: there do not exist enough television cameras on the North American continent to cover all the games in the early rounds. Consider that for a moment as you're contemplating the breadth of our plan.

But Why Stop There?
But why stop at just the Division I teams? Remember the watchword: inclusionarism. What we are about to propose is perhaps the most radical concept ever in the history of mankind, so take a collective deep breath before reading this next sentence.

We are suggesting to you that the tournament be thrown open to every single post-secondary educational institution in the country. All of them: Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA, technical schools, trade institutions, seminaries -- you name it. If it teaches people and those people have high school diplomas, they're in -- even if they have to create a pick-up team just for the tournament. Go beyond your membership colleges. Reach out.

The Bracket
If the current bracket with six rounds required for victory is fun, imagine what one with 13 or 14 would be like! Sure, you could give the top seeds byes in the first couple of rounds -- that's your call. Cinderella schools will abound. When Duke takes on the Forklift Operators Institute of Raleigh-Durham in the "Wonderful One Thousand Twenty-Four" round (as it will come to be known), all hell will break loose! Just think of the possible matchups: Harvard versus Yale Trucking Instructional Class 34-C; UCLA versus UCLA (Undertakers College of Louisiana); Oral Roberts University versus Roberts Oral Hygiene College -- the list goes on and on (and on). Heck, we can even include those Internet universities we all know through the pop-ups we see on our computer screens. Let them round up a team from their enrollees and join in on the fun. The most important thing to remember is that nobody will be dribbling a ball against hardwood outside of your tournament. (Oh, and let's not let silly things like accreditation stand in the way of participation. Inclusionarism is a friend to all.)

A Nation Gripped
If you think the tournament as it stands right now is popular, imagine what it will be like when every person in the country personally knows someone who is playing in it. According to our research, that approximates the situation pretty well -- every American will either be playing, coaching, officiating, wiping sweat off the courts or be related directly to someone who is.

Double the Fun
Naturally, everything said above about the men's tournament applies to the women's as well. Inclusionarism knows no gender boundaries. Tennessee versus the New School of Visual Arts; Connecticut versus the Twin Cities Flight Attendant School -- sure, the conclusion of these early round matchups might be foregone, but that's not the point. The point is to make your tournaments the one thing that everyone can't live without.

Words to Live By
Remember: Leave no school behind!

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at bottlebat@gmail.com.


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