By Dave Darling
The Orlando Sentinel
There are some things in this great world of ours that seem downright perfect.
But as we all know, no one is without fault and everything can always stand improvement.
Take supermodel Adriana Lima, for example.
Rumor has it that her husband, Memphis Grizzlies guard Marco Jaric, complains that his better half constantly leaves lights on around the house, parks the SUV too close to the wall in the garage and cuts his tuna sandwiches in squares instead of triangles.
OK, so perhaps Jaric should worry more about his jump shot.
The point is, just like Ms. Lima’s portfolio, March Madness seems to be about the closest thing to perfect as you can find in the sports world.
The NCAA Tournament and the conference tourneys leading up to Selection Sunday make the month the most exciting on the American sports calendar.
We’d never propose to overhaul the one-and-done bracket system that America falls in love with each spring, but we do have some suggestions that might improve the experience _ none of which involves Mrs. Jaric wearing a glass slipper.
Expand the tournament. I’m not proposing going to 128 teams. Lord knows there already are enough scrub-conference schools in this thing. But the NCAA could add play-in games and expand the field to 72.
Take the 16 lowest-ranked bids and add two play-in games for each bracket’s 15-16 seeds. Play all eight games on Tuesday.
Let the computers do the picking. BCS bashers will hate this idea, but it would make things much more objective. The computers rank teams 1-72.
Clean up the brackets. Ditch the “regional” bracket tags and instead call them Brackets 1-4. Each bracket, tied to true geographic regions, gets three host sites.
Then take the top 56 teams and flow them into brackets, keeping schools as close to home as possible (likewise for the eight teams that win their play-in games).
Dump the automatic bids. Yeah, it’s great that college basketball has a true playoff. And we all love a Cinderella story. But quality schools can get left out when a weak team gets hot and wins its conference tournament. Schools should have at least a .500 record to get a bid.
Show more opening-round games. With 16 games being played on the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament it’s impossible to show every contest from start to finish. But CBS and the NCAA could do better. There’s no reason to wait until 12:20 p.m. to start the first game and then take a dinner break from 5-7.
At some points during the afternoon and evening there are as many as five games being played simultaneously. Start the first game at 9 a.m. and then on the hour right through midnight. On Sweet 16 weekend, start the games at 10 a.m. and begin games every two hours.
Less bubble talk. Increasing the field might help eliminate some of the endless, obnoxious yapping by all the forecasters and bracketologists.
Or, maybe not. . . . So instead, maybe President Obama can get involved in this college-sports debate, too, and propose legislation forcing ESPN and talk-radio hosts to limit their bracket talk to no more than five minutes an hour. Or, maybe he could just eliminate talk radio altogether. . . .
No more domes. Play the Final Four in a basketball arena. Period. The atmosphere inside a dome meant to seat 70,000 people just isn’t conducive to college basketball. Those places are great for rock concerts, WrestleMania and monster-truck shows. But let’s play basketball in a 19,000-seat hall.
While we’re at it, allow corporate sponsors to display their logos on the courts. This would allow the NCAA and CBS to make up for revenue lost from selling fewer tickets.
Did you see where CBS announcer Gus Johnson had to be removed from a Beale Street eatery in Memphis by police early Saturday after sources said he became belligerent and complained loudly about the service and food? Hmmm. Doesn’t sound like the calm, mellow Gus we all know.
And did you see where President Obama filled out his bracket on ESPN on Wednesday? He picked North Carolina to win it all.
A free trip to Disney World to the first person who can tell me whom President Bush picked to win it all when The Worldwide Leader had the former prez reveal his picks in 2001.
Question for The Big Lead: Was it really fair to match Erin Andrews up against Scott Van Pelt in your Culture Tournament with that picture of Miss Andrews being so prominently displayed?
Finally, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Fox, which still has one year left on its BCS contract, is interested in selling those rights to ESPN, which is set to take over the games in 2011.