They Ruined The Goddamn Bracket

I was ready for the 68-team field to fuck with the process of filling out a bracket for your NCAA office pool. But I didn't quite realize the extent of it until yesterday, when they unveiled just how this retarded new format will work.

Being someone who never pays attention to college basketball during the regular season, I assumed all four play-in games would be for the right to face a No. 1 seed as a No. 16 seed. That way, we could conveniently ignore the play-in games like we did before and get on with our lives. But no, no the NCAA did what was "fair" and made some of these play-in games MATTER. And that is really fucking annoying.

Filling out a bracket is supposed to be a solid way to waste an entire week at work. You look at the bracket, you pick the team you think will get upset in the first round for reasons you think are related to basketball but are actually completely arbitrary. You change your mind, scrap brackets, and fill out new ones. It's a process, designed to squeeze every last potentially productive minute out of you.

And now they've fucked all that up.

Virtually every online pool is ignoring the play-in games as a gambling factor. You can still turn your bracket in on Thursday morning, and that's all well and good. The problem is, Thursday morning is now the only time you CAN fill this fucking thing out, because 11 and 12 seeds can make a legit difference in the tourney. Twelve seeds upset 5 seeds all the time. And Mason made it to the Final Four as an 11 seed when they went back in 2006. That means only a fucking idiot would turn in a bracket BEFORE knowing the results of USC/VCU on Wednesday night. And sure, maybe you're someone who assumes Georgetown will beat either of those two teams handily. Maybe you have the Hoyas in the Sweet 16. But what if you don't? What if you fucking hate Georgetown and think they'll lose to USC if USC makes it but not VCU if they do? What if you liked USC as a Sweet 16 surprise team, but then they lose on Wednesday night? That completely fucks with the whole system.

And now you're counting on people to get in brackets in this tight little window Thursday morning before the games start and you go out drinking. I bet some people won't even bother this time around. This used to be a relatively clean affair when it was 64 teams, and now it's just unwieldy enough to make casual entrants not give a shit.

They should have made the play-in games for all four 16 seeds. If they were using these 12 and 11 seed play-ins to drum up more interest in the play-in round, then they fucking failed miserably. Go to the CBS webpage. Their bracket challenge also has a deadline of Thursday morning. So even CBS, the network that presents this stupid tournament, is basically telling you to ignore these games. I'm well aware that the higher-seeded play-in games are meant to be between the last rated at-large teams. And I'm aware that everyone thinks VCU is terrible. But it makes no fucking sense to have two 11-seeds play for a spot and give two 16 seeds a free pass. Who gives a shit if they won their conference tournament? They're still 16 seeds. Seeding-wise, they're supposed to be worse than the 11 seeds. The worse team should have to play in.

Perhaps you think this is unfair to some of the 16 seeds that won their conference title, as opposed to an at-large team sneaking in. To which I say: Do you REALLY give a shit about these schools? Honestly? I don't. I care about ME and what makes my gambling life easier. I don't care if Gritty McScraps from Tiny Tim U. wants to tell his kids he was in the Round of 64 one day. We all thought it was dumb when Seattle got to host a playoff game with a 7-9 record (regardless of the ensuing result). The NFL's argument was that Seattle won their division, which was a stupid argument for giving a weaker team a break. Same thing here.

Otherwise, punish the at-large stragglers by making THEM play for a 16-seed and the right to get thrashed by Kansas or whoever. I don't object to the reasoning behind doing the play-in games this way. It angers me strictly from a numerical standpoint. And from a practicality standpoint, it's even more annoying. If you're gonna expand the tournament, expand in a way that means something. Don't just tack on a few games here and there and leave them in this bizarre limbo between a meaningful trip to the NCAAs and a gambling nuisance no one wants to deal with.

I fucking hate the 68-team format.

Image by Jim Cooke