In news that was expected to be announced last week, the NCAA announced the format for the Opening Round for the newly-expanded Men's Basketball Championship on Monday afternoon.
For starters, the "Opening Round" is no more. Instead, eight teams will play in a revamped First Round or "First Four," referring to the number of games, naturally. The old First Round is now the Second Round, and the old Second Round is the Third.
The "First Four" will be played on the Tuesday or Wednesday after Selection Sunday (maybe both), most likely in Dayton.
As for who will be involved, instead of the last eight at-larges or final eight automatic qualifiers being assigned to these games, the Division I Men's Basketball Committee split the difference.
Two games will feature the last four at-large teams in the field. So, the Committee will officially announce the "last team in" for the first time ever. The teams in each game will be evenly matched and playing for the same spot in the bracket, likely somewhere between a 10 and a 12 seed. However, both games won't necessarily feed to the same line. One game could be for the 10 seed in the East, while the other for the 11 in the Southeast.
The other two games will feature the same format as the current Opening Round, with the winners advancing to be demolished by a number one seed. However, the winners' conferences will get an extra tournament share for the victory.
As for television coverage, better find out where truTV is on your cable or satellite lineup before mid-March.
While I still feel expansion was a completely unnecessary innovation, a three-team jump was certainly the way to go, and this format, even though it smacks of trying to please everyone involved, should work well.
What do you think about this new format for March Madness?