KMOX St. Louis – Another year of madness and bracket busting is drawing to end this weekend as college basketball is now down to the Final Four. Just like previous years, there were more thrilling finishes again this year and some of them will be remembered forever. Over the years this event has become so popular and captivated so many who normally don’t pay attention to college hoops from November to February.
I believe one of the overwhelming factors for the growing popularity is the Cinderella team. You know the teams from a mid major conference. Teams like VCU, Butler or George Mason that takes down Goliath. What puzzles me is the selection committee who puts the 68-team tournament together seems to favor more teams from BCS conferences than the smaller conferences. And for the life of me I just can’t understand it. I’ve heard some say the committee wants bigger schools because they fear a lack of TV ratings. Well I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that.
In the last two years we are seeing a small school of 4,400 students in Indianapolis make consecutive trips to the Final Four. The Butler Bulldogs have defied the odds and came within a whisker of claiming a National Title last year. Did we see the ratings plummet in last year’s championship game against Duke? Uh, no.
Last year the Northern Iowa Panthers knocked off tournament prohibitive favorite Kansas to make it to the Sweet 16 here in St. Louis. The Panthers then wind up on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I can’t tell you how many people I met in last years regional here who were rooting for the Panthers because they just liked the underdog. There is countless number of examples over the years of teams like this who have captivated people’s attention. But the committee keeps rolling out the schools from big conferences.
This year 11 schools from the Big East made it to the dance and only one remained in the Elite 8, the Connecticut Huskies. I will say however over the last few years the selection committee has done a better job of inviting more schools who are not a member of a BCS conference, but there is still worked to be done.
There are conversations going on as to whether the field for the tournament should grow in hopes of gaining more popularity and give the smaller schools more of an opportunity to make it to the tournament. I’m sorry but why water down the product? To me the answer is simple. Just eliminate some of the teams from the BCS conferences who don’t deserve to get in and give the teams from smaller conferences a chance. I mean let’s face it, isn’t Cinderella a perfect story with a perfect ending?
Scott Warmann is a co-host on the Sports Hub