Yesterday, our own Andy Katz chronicled several coaches' turns with the NCAA's mock selection committee exercise. The NCAA wanted to give coaches the same access and transparency to the process that many hoops writers, including myself, have experienced in recent years; typically, media members walk away from the exercise chastised, with an understanding just how difficult the selection committee process is. (Annoyingly, that couldn't be stressed more by the NCAA during the exercise: "This is really hard! Until you make your own bracket, you have no clue!" This case is a bit overstated. The process is difficult and time-constrained, sure, but it's not molecular physics.)
Anyway, I digress. The point is that Phil Martelli shared a really interesting idea with Andy, an idea worth considering, if not implementing outright. That idea:
The consensus seems to be that the opening-round games would remain in Dayton, Ohio. But Martelli said Saint Joe's athletic director Don DiJulia suggested that they move them to historical buildings like the Palestra in Philadelphia or Phog Allen in Lawrence, Kan., to give the games even more meaning.
OK, so Martelli actually cribbed the idea from his athletic director. But no matter! Good ideas like this need no defined origin. In the big scheme of the tournament, this isn't a big deal. It would be a small tweak to the format involving teams that aren't likely to make it past the first round of the NCAA tournament anyway. But it would be a fun tweak, and the NCAA should totally go for it.
The only question is which four "classic" arenas you'd choose. Phog Allen and the Palestra are a good start. Hinkle Fieldhouse is a must. I'd put in a vote for Cameron Indoor Stadium, too, giving the four play-in games at least something resembling geographic dispersal -- West (Phog Allen), East (Palestra), Midwest (Hinkle), South (Cameron), though it would be nice to find a classic West Coast gym to add to the list. (New Mexico's Pit is certainly quirky, even if it's not "classic.") In any case, this should totally happen. It's a quick, minor, unimportant change, but it would be fun both for fans and for players at small schools who might otherwise never have a chance to play a college basketball game in one of the sport's truly memorable venues. Let's do it.