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A Big FU to FAMU

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 14, 2007 12:49PM

2007_03_sports_famu_niagara.jpgThe NCAA started a practice a few year back that, each year, screws over one unfortunate college basketball team. This year's victims are the Florida A&M Rattlers. While the Niagara Purple Eagles will be in Chicago this week to take on the Kansas Jayhawks at the United Center, FAMU goes home without actually getting to take in the same experiences the remaining 64 schools do — in spite of winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament. They miss out on the camaraderie of being around seven other teams over the course of 4 days. They miss out on playing in front of huge crowds and seeing how they stack up against some of the best teams in the country.

We've been against this 65th game since it was adopted six years ago. In 2001, the number of Division I conferences with automatic bids for their conference champions increased to 31 as a result of the 1999 creation of the Mountain West Conference, which split from the Western Athletic Conference. In spite of an increase in automatic bids, the NCAA men's tournament decided not to reduce the number of at-large bids. To alleviate this issue, they decided that the two lowest overall seeded teams in the field would play what's commonly known as the "play-in game," although officially it's called the Opening Round. On Tuesday night, Niagara and Florida A&M faced off in Dayton — the annual host to the Play-In Game — to see which team would get a real tournament slot.

We think we have a better solution to this issue. Don't penalize a team that did everything it could — winning its conference tournament — to get into the Big Dance. Instead, make at-large teams battle for that last spot. Why not make Arkansas and Syracuse play for that last spot? Or Illinois and Florida St.? Hell, have a whole mini-tourney for all the bubble teams!

We do realize that there could be an issue in regards to the seedings. Even the sixth-best team from the Big Ten or SEC will still often get a 9 or 10 seed, which would complicate things for potential opponents. Unlike the 1-16 matchup, Teams with a 7 seed would view a 10 seed as an actual threat, and be at a disadvantage by having less time to gameplan for that opponent. But there's got to be some way to move in this direction, right? Or do you like the "play-in" format as it currently stands? What about simply reducing the at-large bids to 33, as the women's tournament did?

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