The Plank

A More Perfect Tournament: Jason Zengerle

Of course March Madness
is great. "The best spectacle in sport." "Three weeks without equal." Blah blah
blah. Not content to leave well enough alone, we want to know if it can be
We're in search of a more perfect
tournament. So, we asked a few friends of the magazine if they had any ideas for
improving the NCAAs. Here's what Jason Zengerle, a senior editor for
TNR, thinks we should

I can't really quarrel with
any of the other proposed fixes for March Madness (except maybe for Yglesias's,
which exhibits the sort of deep thinking more typically found in the New York
Knicks' front office). But I'd like to offer a more modest proposal: Give Duke a
bye for the first two rounds.

This idea might sound
surprising, coming from such an avowed Duke hater as myself. But, in the past
few years, I'd really come to depend on Duke losing in the Sweet 16. For four
out of five seasons between 2001 and 2006, that's exactly what Duke did. In
fact, Duke's Sweet 16 exit was something I greatly looked forward to each
tournament: a prime-time game on a Thursday or a Friday night; an ashen-faced
Coach K slouching off the court after a humiliating upset defeat; little
children in J.J. Redick jerseys crying in the stands. Ah, bliss!

But then something bad
happened: Duke started going out before the Sweet 16. Last year it was in the
first round to Virginia Commonwealth; this year it was to West Virginia in the second round (after narrowly avoiding
a first-round loss to mighty Belmont). Now, at a certain level, it's
obviously satisfying to see Duke suffer the humiliation of such early-round
defeats. But, at the same time, it's a huge inconvenience, as well. I mean, it
used to be that a Duke hater could block off a few hours of one night knowing
that he'd get his full share of Duke-enfreude. But now, I've got to watch Duke
play in the first and second round games, too, lest I miss them losing. Quite
frankly, it's a huge time suck.

So here's my proposal: let
Duke go straight to the Sweet 16. That way I--and the countless other Duke
haters--will be free to watch other games that first weekend of the tournament,
knowing full well that the inevitable Duke collapse we crave is just a week
away. Now, I suppose there's a risk in giving Duke a bye in those first two
rounds. Theoretically, they'd only have to win four (rather than six) straight
games to win the title. But given the Blue Devils's recent track record, that's
a risk I'm happy to take.


Leitch: Let all teams in the tournament.
John Gasaway: Reward mid-major conference teams already.Will Blythe: Nationalize the office pool!Matthew Yglesias: The madness makes it work!Gary
Hoenig: Have college teams play the Knicks.
Aaron Kaplowitz: Make the NIT relevant. 

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