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A More Perfect Tournament: Will Leitch

Of course March Madness is great. "The best spectacle in sport." "Three weeks without equal." Blah blah blah. Not content to leave well enough alone, we want to know if it can be better. We're in search of a more perfect tournament. So, we asked a few friends of the magazine if they had any ideas for improving the NCAAs. Here's what Will Leitch, editor of Deadspin, thinks we should do.

Bobby Knight, during one of his oddly compelling appearances on ESPN this month (honestly, I'm genuinely impressed that he hasn't gone after Digger Phelps yet; though, to be fair, this isn't over yet), proposed that the NCAA tournament expand to 128 teams.

College basketball coaches have been recommending this for years, and their logic is impeccable. "Everyone seems to be having fun with this tournament ... why not let some more teams in? Who's with us?" Some believe this mindset is less about the joys of the tournament and more about coaches attempting to hold onto their jobs by claiming that, hey, they made the tournament, what more do you people want? I prefer to think they're just trying to create a new cartography market for those confused by how such a bracket could possibly look.

But I posit that Coach Knight--and please, do not refer to him as simply "Knight;" do not taunt the Hall of Famer--does not go far enough. There are currently 341 teams playing Division I-A college basketball, ranging from 33-1 Memphis to 0-29 New Jersey Institute of Technology. I see no reason that the regular season should not just become an extended exhibition season (perhaps they can play some games in Japan) and the tournament should let in every team.

There are some logistical issues. First, the math. It's not easy to shoehorn 341 teams in to a readable bracket. The logical bracket is a 256-team one, with 16 regionals. (I recommend the "Upper Midwest," "Southwestern Texas State" and "Alaska" regionals. If you run out, try "East Guam.") Unfortunately, that leaves us 85 teams. So, we're going to have to take the bottom 43 teams from that 256-team bracket and add them to those 85, to give us a 128-team play-in bracket. Those teams all play their first round play-in games--I suggest using the Pomeroy Ratings as seedings--which gives us 64 teams. The teams that have lost are done. The 64 teams left in the play-in bracket go one more round, and the 32 winners go back up into the upper bracket. That gives us 245 teams. The other 11 to advance will have to be determined by margin of loss. That's not really fair, but it's the best we can do, and if it's good enough for the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, it's good enough for us. Then those 256 teams all have the tournament proceed as scheduled. Eight months later, the tournament is over, and we're ready to start again!

The second problem with this tournament plan is that there would appear to be no time for these student-athletes to, you know, actually go to class.

Ha. Just kidding. As if that's a problem.

--Will Leitch

John Gasaway: Reward mid-major conference teams already.
Will Blythe: Nationalize the office pool!
Matthew Yglesias: The madness makes it work!