CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Making some racket about the bigger bracket:
The new "First Four" to tip off the NCAA Tournament? The two-night doubleheaders concept is fine, but the execution needs some tweaking.
Dayton, Ohio, the perennial site of the former "play-in game," has been a great NCAA host ... so excellent the university should be given more than an occasional turn as a second- and third-round host.
As for the First Four, how about playing those games in the city in which the winner must advance in the bracket. Consider UAB and Clemson, meeting tonight in Dayton for the right to play 22nd-ranked West Virginia in the round of 64 Thursday at noontime in Tampa.
The Blazers and Tigers tip off at 9 p.m., as long as the Little Rock-Asheville 16 seed "prelim" doesn't go overtime. After a two-hour game, postgame interviews, showers, bus trip to the Dayton airport and NCAA charter flight, they get to a Tampa Bay hotel about, say 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Then, they're thrown into the first game of the entire bracket of 64 remaining teams, against a rested club, about 34-35 hours later? Is that fair?
A better solution would be to play the First Four games in the city where the winners will need to play the higher seeds. If the NCAA second- and third-round site isn't available because of an NBA or NHL game, then go to the next-best site.
If the St. Pete Times Forum is occupied on First Four night, for example, UAB and Clemson could be playing in Tampa at USF's Sun Dome (10,400 capacity). For VCU or USC, headed from Dayton to Chicago, if the United Center isn't open on Wednesday, there are plenty of Windy City buildings that could host.
The NCAA is so big on fairness to the student-athlete that such a move would seem obvious.
Much of the on-air comparisons were about UAB and VCU versus the aforementioned Buffaloes and Hokies - or so-called mid-majors in a head-to-head with BCS conference schools.
Actually, after crunching quite a few numbers Monday, it seems to me the problem is that the NCAA selection committee uses criteria that's a moving target.
These folks need to establish what is and isn't most important, and stick to it perennially.