This piece is cross-posted on TNR's blog, Posting Up.
A few follow-ups on "Middies":
-- The Conference-USA observation made by reader T.M. is a fair one. However, CBS apparently considered C-USA to be a "mid-major" for its calculations, and my post was as much about the internal CBS discrepancy between Seth Davis and Billy Packer as anything else.
-- While the Mid-Majors received 6 bids this year, that total could have been lower. If Nevada and Xavier had not lost in their respective conference tournaments, New Mexico State and George Washington would not have gotten in, leaving 4 Mid-Majors. Even if one assumes the next two teams in would have been Syracuse and Drexel, it still would have meant a total of just five "middies", which is down from the eight in 2006. (It should also be noted that seeing as many observers have concluded that the Committee made a large mistake in leaving Drexel out, it's hard to know for sure if the Committee would have gotten it "right" if they had had one or two more at-large slots.)
Before getting ready for tonight's game, two things I miss about the "old" Tournament:
-- Before the Tournament went to the full 64-team field, there were a variety of Preliminary Round and/or First Round games, so you could have a situation where 12th-seeded Richmond in 1984 had to win 2 games (over Rider, and then Auburn) before playing 4th-seeded Indiana, who had received two successive "byes." Confusing and "charming"? Yes. Fair? Not-so-much.
-- More recently, a Monday-morning-before-the-Tourney tradition was to pick up a copy of USA Today,which had (and presumably still has) a pull-out section devoted to the Tournament, with a lengthy capsule on all 64 teams. (Others must have had the same idea, because one year I didn't get to the newsstand until lunchtime, only to find all copies of USAT gone.) For many years, it was an introduction to, let's say, the Southland Conference champion. But in today's world of the "Internets," waiting until the day before the Tournament begins seems way too long, and info the projected field is available from the first day of the season from a wide variety of sources. If you're just focusing on evaluating the Southland champ (BTW, it's Texas A&M-CC) this morning, you're way behind the rest of your office pool!