Welcome to the Real Dance, Bluffers. Arkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44. Well, we’re off to a great start so far this year. With tonight’s convincing win over Winthrop, UAPB becomes the 64th entrant into the bracket, and those who fret about completeness (“I can’t make my picks yet!!”) are able to finally concentrate. For a team that started the season 0-11 as it traveled all over the country taking regular beatings, a win tonight and another roadie to Jacksonville to face Duke on Friday feels like just desserts. Allen Smith had 14/5 and Tavaris Washington contributed 8/13/5 assts as the Golden Lions broke open a close game at the half to slowly pull away in the second. Even though it is only the PiG, this is the first win by a SWAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Southern University pulled the trick as a #15 in 1993.
Argument for the Play-In-Game. In watching some of this game tonight in front of 8,000+ fans at the UD Arena in Dayton, while switching over to some of the more interesting NIT games tonight, we once again come back to the idea of expansion and how the NCAA might look into integrating ideas into the existing system using something that approximates logic and reason. Obviously, the preferred scenario is no additional expansion, but it’s also the least likely. We’re never going back to a perfectly symmetrical sixty-four team bracket now that we’re at 65, so let’s consider the next best alternative. The Tuesday night PiG is widely mocked among bracketeers around the country, but as you can see by clicking through the link above, people in Dayton attend and enjoy the game. We’ve said for the better part of a decade, though, that having a single game hanging out on a thread like that is weird and feels a little funny — it’s like finding a box of raisins in the paper towels section at the grocery store. We think that the fix for this is to have four play-in games, which means 68 teams would be invited to the NCAA Tournament. Each region would have one PiG, and all four of them would be played in the 7pm and 9pm time slots on Tuesday night, with winners moving on to the Friday games around the country. Dayton could host two games and another great basketball city such as Salt Lake or Memphis could host the other two. Here’s the rub, though. Rather than making the four PiGs a situation where the worst eight teams (#16 seeds) are slotted into them, make it so that the games utilize the unyielding buzz and conversation about the bubble that dominates the entire previous weekend. You achieve this by slotting the last eight at-large teams into these four play-in games. This year, that would have meant the following scenario:
- Utah State vs. Mississippi State
- UTEP vs. Illinois
- Minnesota vs. Arizona State
- Florida vs. Virginia Tech
How ridiculously fun would that be to watch on Tuesday night?– no offense to tonight’s competitors, but it’s no contest! Bubble teams, this is the chance for you to make your case against a similarly situated team — it’s win or go home. The UAPBs and Winthrops of the world would already be in the round of 64 (aka the first round) as #16 seed auto-bids. The winner of these four PiGs comprised solely of the eight lowest at-larges could be slotted as #12 or #13 seeds regardless of who wins. Can someone tell us what’s wrong with this idea?