Remember When College Basketball’s Regular Season Mattered? Here’s How To Make It Relevant Once Again

Storied rivalries with fantastic finishes make for instant classics. Duke-Carolina was just that.

Unfortunately however, for regular season college basketball, great rivalries are the last bastion of consequence. And without its sensational ending, Duke-UNC would have mattered only in North Carolina. If it affected tournament seeding, it did so only minimally. And it certainly didn’t push either team on or off the bubble.

For most of us, it was just another pre-season game, albeit a memorable one.

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Austin Rivers takes the game-winning shot over Tyler Zeller. (Scott Muthersbaugh/AP)

Advantages Of Expanding The NCAA Tournament To Include…Everyone

Remember when regular season games mattered? If you’re under 40, you probably don’t.

As the tournament increased from 16 teams to 64 (and to 68 and to how many ever they are going to let in this year), it devoured the importance of anything else associated with the sport. Growing up in the 70’s, I loved the regular season and I loved the tournament. Now, I just love the tournament.

Here’s a way to make the regular season relevant again: Let everyone in the tournament; and most importantly, make it totally random with no seeding.

The regular season would have absolutely nothing to do with the tournament. It would be nice to watch teams compete for championships instead of seeding position. Without any connection to the tournament, the regular season (and conference tournaments) would no longer be a pre-season, but a separate one. There could be a final pre-tournament top 20 with a mythical regular season national champion and all the ensuing discourse.

Besides making the regular season matter, there are other advantages:

— What’s wrong with giving every player a chance to be in the tourney? For most kids, playing in the tournament is the pinnacle of their college career (and maybe their lives). And who does it hurt that all fans would get to see their team play at least one tournament game.

— Most everyone agrees that the greatness of the tournament is that first weekend, when anything can happen. What’s wrong with one more of those weekends with infinitely more Cinderellas?

— Best of all, no politics, no NCAA committee. No more 9th place big conference teams making it over dominant teams from one-bid leagues that lose their conference tournament final on the road at the buzzer. All brackets and locations determined by pure luck. Teams would not be allowed to play near home (except for predetermined final four site).

I know the big complaint with this plan: Oh my god, #1 UNC vs #2 Duke in the first round? In Peoria? So unfair.

How great would that be?

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Complete photo credit: AP Photo/Burlington Times-News, Scott Muthersbaugh via Rocky Mount Telegram

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