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ACC idea for tourney makes no sense

A few days ago, I saw the idea the Atlantic Coast Conference was floating in regard to the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The ACC is proposing that everyone — all eligible Division I teams — go to the Big Dance, whenever they decide to hold it.

My first thought upon seeing it was, “Gee, that’s stupid!” But upon reviewing it a little deeper, my response was, “Gee, that is really stupid!”

I can appreciate the ACC wanting to get all 15 of its teams into the NCAA Tournament. I’m sure the fans of Pittsburgh and Boston College want to go dancing. But allowing every team in the country into the tournament isn’t just watering down the event, it’s drowning it. We’re talking 346 teams for next season out of the 553 that play D-I.

Hey, I’m a San Jose State alum. My school hasn’t sniffed the NCAAs since Bill Clinton was president. Of course, I would love to see the Spartans in it. But I want them to earn their way in.

This shouldn’t be youth soccer where everyone gets a participation trophy. This is supposed to be a reward for having competed at a high level in the regular season. It’s about playing and winning nonconference games, then making hay in league play.

Before the coronavirus put the kibosh on last year’s NCAA Tournament, the lowest-ranked team in Division I was Chicago State. Remember them? They were 4-25 and were threatening not to show up to their own conference tournament.

At the other end of the spectrum was Kansas, which had the NCAA’s highest Power Index Rating. So, assuming the NCAA seeded everyone from 1 to 353, would you want to see Kansas play Chicago State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament where the point spread might be as high as 40, maybe even 50?

I didn’t think so.

With all due respect to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski who said there has to be an NCAA Tournament next year, shouldn’t the NCAA worry about having a legitimate regular season first?

There’s talk about playing weeks of nonconference games in bubbles in places like the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut where teams can get four games in safely over a week or less. You do two or three bubble events in a month or six weeks and you get eight to 12 nonconference games played. Then you can begin conference play in January. If the conference wants to bubble up, so be it.

What about attending classes, you ask? Aren’t these guys supposed to go to school? Every university is offering virtual classrooms so have laptop or tablet, will travel. As long as the wifi holds up, you can travel to a bubble and learn while playing.

The plan is to start the season Nov. 21 with a minimum of 13 games and a maximum of 28. The NCAA basketball subcommitties for men and women have made their recommendations to the NCAA Division I Council which is scheduled to meet Wednesday and vote on the proposals. 

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Remember, under Title IX, the women are entitled to the same opportunities as the men. Which is another reason the ACC’s all-inclusive NCAA Tournament idea makes no sense. You’d have double the logistical nightmares and double the cost.

But by playing a somewhat normal regular season, even if it means stretching out the dates, you can set up your postseason to  resemble years past. 

Come March or April or even May, you can hold conference tournaments. Perhaps by then a workable vaccine is available and can be widely distributed to where fans can attend games in person.

Meanwhile, the NCAA selection committee will have the data it needs from the nonconference and conference seasons to accurately come up with its field of 68. If it means March Madness becomes May Madness, so be it.

But the idea of letting every school in is so asinine. You should have to do something besides paying your membership dues in order to be eligible to compete for a national championship. Otherwise, why bother holding a tournament?

Technically speaking, every team already can make the NCAA Tournament. All you have to do is win your conference postseason tourney and you get an automatic qualifier into the Big Dance.

We all know what big business the NCAA Tournament is. And I haven’t even broached the subject of betting. Why dilute your business playing games that have no justifiable reason for being played? This has always been about merit and earning one’s way into competing for the national championship. And that should not change, pandemic or not.

I appreciate the NCAA trying to find a solution to play basketball, whether it’s this fall, this winter or next spring. I’m glad they’re looking at all options, bubbles and non-traditional ways of getting teams on the court. I hope they find something that ultimately works and is fair and has some integrity attached to it.

But let everyone in? Sorry. You want to put Chicago State in the NCAA Tournament? Tell the Cougars to improve their ranking from No. 353 and then talk to me.