As for the seeding and selection process for the NCAA men's basketball bracket, here's an idea for all those feeling cheated or misrepresented: Prove it.
Prove you belong in March, Mississippi State, by not losing to Rider at home in November or at Western Kentucky in January or at Auburn in the last month.
Prove you deserve a better seed, Tennessee, by beating Georgia on the road or by staying within a country mile of Kentucky in the SEC semifinals.
For the Volunteers, there remains opportunity to set the record straight, the chance to show the doubters and the tourney czars that a 4 or even a 3 should have been the assigned seeding.
For Mississippi State and Illinois and Rhode Island and the other teams that are on the outside looking in, the burden of proof will leave a mark, a lesson that can be recalled and revisited this time next year or the next.
Yes, being one of the final teams eliminated from the NCAA tournament is hard. Yes, there is little satisfaction to be had in the NIT -- sports' version of the "Let's Make a Deal" zinger behind door number three. Yes, there arguably are a dozen programs that are either looking toward the NIT or possibly even putting away the gear that are better basketball teams than a collection of the small-conference qualifiers that have cool nicknames such as Bearkats or Gauchos or Mean Green.
But you know what? So be it. Don't like it, Virginia Tech? Then win more. Or win your tournament. The ad infinitum debate about which major college team has a beef and which one got a bad seed is tiring.
And for the love of Bryce Drew and buzzer beaters everywhere, don't let some hurt feelings in Champaign, Ill., or Starkville, Miss., be the springboard that gives momentum to the expansion movement.
Seriously, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And this is the living-breathing definition of it. Start adding to the madness will only leave even the hardcore college hoops zealot with information overload.
First, imagine trying to fill out a 96-team bracket. How about a field of 128?
And if you think the NCAA tournament is more than just an office pool, well, you're right. But you're also wrong.
The tournament is more than the March Madness brackets that have generated enough contests and shameless promos that they are everywhere (including at timesfreepress.com -- give it a try, you'll like it. Sorry, it's in the contract).
That said, they also attract a wide-reaching audience that would never watch or possibly even pay attention to the field without cheering for their bracket busters and long shots. Magic and Larry may have raised the level and the profile of the NCAA tournament, but office pools and tournament contests of all shapes and sizes have allowed March Madness to reach the masses.
And if the field reaches anywhere close to triple digits, filling out a bracket almost would feel like homework.
There's also talk of small-level expansions, possibly adding three more teams and forcing eight teams to face off in four play-in games for the right to get into the field and face a No. 1 seed.
The numbers are at least somewhat tolerable, the field reaching 68 teams with the added numbers.
But if this addition does happen, then the small fries should be free and clear from the play-in games. Teams such as Robert Morris and East Tennessee State and Lehigh won their conference tournaments and earned automatic bids and the chance to take swings with the big boys. The automatic qualifiers have earned the right to take the trips and play before the CBS cameras in big arenas across the country rather than taking a Tuesday trip to Dayton, Ohio, or Boise, Idaho.
They earned their ticket.s
No, if you are going to add three teams, let the Mississippi States or the Virginia Techs that are on the outside looking in face off in play-in games and the four winners each get a No. 13 seed.
After all, they have the most to prove.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...