There might not be an unofficial holiday on the sports calendar that captivates the nation the way Selection Sunday does. Sure, the Super Bowl is a bigger deal because it's the day that America crowns the champion of its most favorite sport (and because money money money), but college basketball's big day demands just as much attention and generates nearly as much buzz, just for different reasons. It's a very The Godfather-The Godfather Part II situation.
As glorious as the day the brackets are unveiled is, there remains one giant problem with it that should have been addressed years ago: the major conference championship games that everyone stops caring about the moment the first No. 1 seed is revealed.
Three of college basketball's top conferences -- the ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten -- will crown their champions on Sunday, and those championships will have shorter windows of relevance than any of the ones that came before them this NCAA postseason. Every season, the Big Ten champion appears on the CBS Selection Show still wearing their uniforms and clutching their hard-earned trophy. And every year the fans of that team have already shifted their full attention to the next game before the players have had the chance to take a shower. It doesn't seem fair.
More important than players and coaches receiving their due time in the sun is the fact that these games prevent the Selection Committee from doing its job to the best of its ability. And when your job is putting together a tournament that a group of people paid $10.8 billion for the right to televise a few years ago, that's sort of a big deal.
Thanks to the mock selection process that the committee does with the media every year, we know that it likes to have all the teams selected and seeded by the night before Selection Sunday. The committee essentially has a full bracket in place by Saturday night, and only has a couple of variations in place in the event that something extreme happens. Basically, the championship games on Sunday don't matter at all in the grand scheme of things.
This sounds okay in theory, but what about years where a team playing on Sunday can only make the field of 68 with a win (like Georgia in 2008) or when a team has the potential to make a huge jump by knocking off one of the best teams in the country (like Kentucky this year)? Those are situations that would seem to complicate things to a degree where you'd like to have another 18 hours or so to make sure you get the whole thing right.
The subjective claims of "team X should have been seeded higher" or "team Y should have been in the field" types of mistakes are going to be made every year, but there are other mistakes that we've seen from the committee over the past decade that are simply inexcusable for a situation where there's so much at stake.
A season ago, fifth-seeded UNLV was forced to play a de-facto away against No. 12 seed California in San Jose. All the committee needed to do to rectify the unfair situation was flip the Bears with fellow 12-seed Akron. In a more infamous gaffe, the committee once mistakenly placed BYU, a Mormon-run school, in a situation where it might have to play a game on a Sunday. In 2011, everyone was in agreement that Colorado was playing for their NCAA Tournament lives in the Pac-12 tournament. So when the Buffaloes won it and essentially "stole" a bid from a potential at-large team, how could they possibly be seeded 11th and better than the final four other at-large squads?
This stuff is easily correctable, and you'd like to think the people tasked with the assignment could handle it if given an extra day to discuss and examine. The issue, however, seems to be that folks want something to watch in the hours leading up to the bracket reveal.
"It's a win and a great appetizer for the fans," said Seth Davis of CBS and Sports Illustrated. "It's a no-brainer for the fans because they get to watch great games, and for the networks because Sunday games are always the highest-rated. It's not changing anytime soon."
But isn't the NCAA Tournament -- the event that is college basketball to the majority of the sports world -- more important than a handful of games that are going to be forgotten hours or, in the case of the Big Ten, minutes later?
If viewers and networks are that desperate for pre-bracket hoops, then why not move some of the smaller Saturday championship games that get overshadowed by the power conferences over to Sunday? A hoops-hungry nation is going to watch anything you put on TV that day, and those games figure to have far less of an impact on the committee's job than the ones currently on the Selection Sunday docket.
Selection Sunday is great, but its main purpose is to ensure that the NCAA Tournament is better. There's an easy step to take in order to make sure that happens.