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Tweaks for March Madness

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Tweaks for March Madness

Bobby Cremins

Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant are the first Clemson basketball players ever to play in four NCAA tournaments. But because the NCAA botched its new Field of 68, it's a bittersweet status for the two tired Tigers.

The College of Charleston takes to the road for what feels like a big National Invitation Tournament game at Cleveland State on Saturday. Cougars head coach Bobby Cremins has a way to make the game bigger.

Both of the traditional tournaments need alterations as simple as four geography lessons:

Cold in Tampa

On cue from "Man vs. Airport" producers, No. 12 seed Clemson led No. 5 seed West Virginia by 10 points in the first half Thursday before missing shots and folding against the tanned and rested Mountaineers in the first game of the NCAA tournament.

Allowing for three extra teams in the tournament this year meant Clemson had to play Alabama- Birmingham at 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, arrive at their Tampa, Fla., hotel at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, practice, shave and face West Virginia just after noon on Thursday.

Showing they have heart, the NCAA late Tuesday informed Clemson it could move from an early Tampa practice slot to the last of the eight openings Wednesday. Gee, thanks guys!

Overall, middle school tournaments are run better and smarter.

Why wasn't the Clemson-UAB winner sent to the Cleveland site?

Or given a night game?

Or dropped into the NIT.

Hot in Cleveland

Cremins, as a native of New York City, loves the Madison Square Garden-based NIT.

As the head coach at Georgia Tech, he once turned down an NIT bid.

Building a better secondary tournament, he says, should start with a sweeter primary prize.

"Give the team that wins the NIT an automatic bid to the NCAA (tournament) the next year," he suggests.

But what if the NIT champ stinks the next season?

"They could be the 68th team," Cremins said.

Excellent. The Cremins plan adds fire and spice to every NIT game.

Freezing in Indy

It's almost unanimous: The NCAA tournament Selection Committee had one of its worst Sundays.

But the main office in Indianapolis didn't mess up the bracket nearly as much as they fumbled the concept.

Forget the Clemson travel schedule. Having a No. 12 seed play a qualifying game gives lucky No. 5 seeds huge advantages, on paper. With such an edge, you would almost rather get a No. 5 seed than a No. 4 in the same regional.

Going from 68 to 65 should have been about rewarding the best teams in descending order, not stopping at No. 12 for punishment and then arbitrarily skipping to No. 16. Four "play-in" games involving No. 16 seeds (and some sensible travel schedules) makes more sense.

Cozy in Alabama

Colorado got a raw deal.

Harvard, for sure, with an RPI of No. 35.

The annual Virginia Tech snub, of course.

But they must be laughing in the football wing at the SEC offices in Birmingham, Ala. As the league celebrates five straight national titles in football, basketball "experts" are arguing over those always crazy No. 12 seed decisions.

Never mind that college- rpi.com founder Jerry Palm said the SEC West was so bad in basketball this year it, as a single conference, would be rated below the Ivy League.

Applied to a hypothetical 2010 FBS football tournament and using the Sagarin computer poll for seeding, the last No. 12 seed in at No. 48 would have been ...

Scary, scintillating Syracuse.

Last six out: Boston College, Penn State, Louisville, Delaware, Clemson and Georgia.

Face it folks, a No. 12 seed isn't going to win the NCAA tournament. "Left out" arguments on Mondays in March are a giant waste of potentially productive time.

In fact, the NCAA should cut the field back to 64.

Make that 63. Plus the NIT grand prize winner.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or 937-5593.

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