Millions of Americans look forward to the opening four days of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament every year. When the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, it achieved true perfection...the opening Thursday and Friday distract us from our jobs and feature games throughout the day from sites throughout the country. Thrilling finishes, underdogs achieving the impossible, and seemingly simultaneous buzzer beaters are etched into our collective sports memory to be treasured as the essence of "March Madness."
In recent years, as conferences have grown and shrunk, split and realigned, the NCAA has seized the opportunity to expand the field -- first to an unbalanced 65, and then to a slightly more balanced 68. The reasons for this are simple -- more teams means a greater inventory of games, and that means more money for the tournament as a whole.
We Americans do not begrudge the NCAA this opportunity to make more money...however, we do ask that the NCAA stop insulting our intelligence by referring to these "First Four" games as the first round of the tournament! Everyone knows that it's not a true "round" in a tournament when 60 teams are given free passage to the "Second Round."
Our request is simple -- refer to the opening round of games in Dayton as the "First Four" or the "Opening Round." Return the titles of "First Round" and "Second Round" to their proper places: The Thursday through Sunday of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament -- the days when the tournament truly begins and those that truly make March Madness great.