Why I’m skipping the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament

Nearly everybody I know participates in the NCAA basketball tournament in one form or another.  I bet this morning they’ve already downloaded their tournament brackets and are furiously filling them out for their office pool or for an online competition.  They’re carefully deciding which team they want advancing.  They’re checking every available data source to contemplate power rankings against conferences.  They’re hoping that the combination of wins and advancements – gut picks and safe wagers – will help them win the tournament this year, rather than have all the prize money go to Gloria the receptionist who last year thought “Duke versus Butler” was the name of a British royalty competition show.

Nearly everyone I know will be participating in this tournament.  Millions of dollars are wagered on those brackets.  Websites are offering prizes and glory to those who can pick the most winners.

Nearly everyone I know will be participating in the tournament.

Everyone, that is – except me.

I’m skipping the tournament this year, and most likely will skip it for the foreseeable future.  There’s no reason for me to waste $5 or $20 or however much it costs on filling out a bracket.  It’s not worth it for me.

And you’re thinking, “Chuck, don’t be such a downer.  Everybody does the tournament, it’s fun, you should play, stop being a party pooper.”

You know what – if the argument is, “Chuck you should do it because everyone else does it,” I would counter with the usual request about whether you would jump off a bridge if everyone else did it.

And to be totally honest, I did enjoy putting in a betting sheet now and again in the past.  I never won, but I came close a couple of times.

So why then am I saying no to the tournament this year?

Several reasons.

  • There was no need to increase the field to 68 teams.  Is there a desire for nearly a dozen Big East teams to be in the tournament?  Is everybody so worried that the Big East or the Atlantic 10 or the ACC might lose an at-large bid?  Come on.  The filed should have remained at 64 teams and you put an equal number of conference champions and at-large bids in the tournament.  And for that matter..
  • There should never have been a “play-in” game in the first place.  Most of the time, the play-in game (or “opening round game,” as the NCAA would like you to call it) was just a matchup between the SWAC and the MEAC conferences, otherwise known as the two strongest HBCU conferences.  Yeah, you’re Division 1 schools, yes you are, but you need to play one more game before we’ll even let you into our tournament.  In fact, if the SWAC-MEAC teams didn’t match up, it was only because someone won their tournament and its automatic bid with an overall losing record (as Siena did when they appeared in the 2002 play-in game).
  • The complete dilution of the NIT Tournament.  Hey there – remember that OTHER tournament, the National Invitational Tournament, the one that has its final games at Madison Square Garden in New York City?  Remember that?  Hmm?  At one time, the NIT was as popular – if not more so – than the NCAA tournament.  Now it’s just a leftover tournament for anyone who didn’t get in the NCAA tourney – which would explain why people consider the NIT the “Not Invited Tournament.”  That, and the chants of ‘We’re Number 69! We’re Number 69!” as in the 69th best college basketball team.  Feh.
  • There’s no local teams for me to root for.  Siena didn’t make the tourney.  Neither did UAlbany.  I don’t consider Syracuse to be our “local” team any more than I consider LIU-Brooklyn to be a local team.  Long Island University.  When was the last time the Blackbirds played in a meaningful tournament game – when Sherman White was on the team in the 1950’s?  Yeah, yeah, I know Jimmer Fredette is from Glens Falls and he’s in the tournament for BYU, but that’s not the same for me.  Think about it.  The last time Siena was in the tournament, Jimmy Fallon picked them – on his TV show – to go all the way.  Yeah, Siena had no chance whatsoever, but it was fun to hear our local team get some national love from the best late night talk show host in the country.
  • Have you seen who got snubbed this year?  Really?  Kentucky is a #4 seed while Florida is a #2 seed?  Really?  What are the bracketologists smoking?  And Colorado State gets to the semifinals of their conference tournament and they get shut out of the big dance?  Really?  Harvard tied for the Ivy League title and you can’t find a way to put the Crimson in the tourney?  You don’t put Alabama in, but Alabama-Birmingham gets invited?  Really?!?

Those are some of the reasons I’m not participating in the tournament.  There are others, but I’m sure you have your own choice as to whether or not you’ll enter a completed bracket in your office pool.  That’s your choice.  You have that right.  I’m just offering you my personal reasons for not participating.

Now let me ask you this.  Would there be any reason, any at all, that would make you put down your ballpoint and leave your bracket sheet unfilled?  And if not, do you think that my reasons for skipping the tournament have merit, or is it just a case of “agree to disagree”?

Think about that when you’ve got Duke and Pitt in the championship final and you still can’t win because the receptionist picked more mid-round winners based on team nickname and uniform color scheme.