One Fix the NCAA Should Make Before the Next Tournament

Pittsburgh Panthers Nike Sibande (22) celebrates with Blake Hinson (2) after making a three point shot during the second half against the Syracuse Orange on February 25, 2023 at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh Panthers Vs Syracuse Orange Mens Basketball

It’s Sunday night. The final games from the first weekend are tipping off. And once again, I find myself reflecting on one of the best weekends of the sports year. The first four days of the NCAA tournament are like none other. Upsets, heartbreak, bracket busters galore. Despite the greatness of the tournament, there is still something that needs to be addressed and fixed for upcoming tournaments; the complete fallacy and mockery of the brackets that the play-in games are.

One Fix the NCAA Should Make Before the Next Tournament

The NCAA seeding committee has an impossible task- rank 68 teams from 1-68 based on ever-changing criteria. As the years go on, new vocabulary is continually introduced. Quadrant one wins have just come into the equation, as has the strength of record in recent years. One thing that I will forever struggle to understand, though, is how and why the play-in games are chosen.

Don’t misunderstand; the idea of four extra NCAA tournament games is great. Any additional win-or-go-home games are a fantastic proposition. Playing into the tournament for 16 seeds makes tons of sense. Four additional teams get to hear their names called on Selection Sunday and play for a chance to win a title.

But in recent years, teams have also started playing for an 11 seed. This is exactly what makes no sense. A team that is deemed relatively the middle of the pack should not be playing a play-in game.

11 Seed Debacle

Four teams every year are chosen as an 11 seed and must play one of the plays in games. The winners of the two games then play a first-round game against a six-seed, but the other two teams are out.

Why is a team that is deemed to be better than 20 other teams forced to play in the tournament? Why must a team like Pittsburgh, who not only won the play-in game but also won their first-round game, not just be allowed to be in the tournament?

If a team is deemed to be good enough to earn an 11 seed, that means they are ranked somewhere 41-44 in the nation. Why are teams ranked as a 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 guaranteed entry, but an 11 seed is not? Why are teams ranked 45-64 guaranteed their spot, but others far better and ranked far higher are not?

How to fix it

The solution is so simple that it’s almost preposterous that it has not happened yet. Rather than teams being forced to play for an 11 seed, the only play-in games become games to determine the 16 seeds.

This would mean that the 11 seeds who previously had to play games to get in are now ranked as either 11 or 12 seeds. They get regular games just like every other 11 or 12 seed. They are not ranked as one of the “last teams in” despite being one of the top teams in the country.

As for the 16 seeds, this means they are playing for the last few spots in the tournament, which is exactly what “play-in” should mean. The NBA has recently adopted a play-in tournament as well. The only teams involved are the 7-10 seeds. Not a 5 seed or another middle-of-the-pack team.

Whatever the solution the NCAA comes up with, this is something that needs to be addressed moving forward. It makes no sense to have a good team eliminated before the tournament starts. If they win, they are ranked 24 spots higher than other teams. But if they lose, they are out.

The tournament is awesome. Don’t ruin it with silly seeding rules.