I have a better idea. Seed all the teams - 1 through 64. Gather a representative from each team (coach, captain, math professor, sabermetrics whiz student, quant booster, whatever) in a TV studio on selection day. Extend the seeding show from 1 hour not to 2, as Silver proposes, but to 8 hours, and let the teams pick their own spots on the bracket. In order.
Got that? The lights go up... drumroll... the hosts reveal the entire field, ranked 1 to 64, as a list. Big LCD screens show that list next to the empty brackets, listing only game dates and locations. Team #1 - Ohio State, this year - takes the opening game nearest their home campus (presumably); that one's a layup. Team #2 - Kansas State - doesn't want to see OSU until the final, so they pick a starting game near home on the opposite side of the bracket. Then Team #3, and so on.
The fun begins in the muddled middle - a 4-seed team might make a statement by trying to take down a 2-seed in the opening game. An 8-seed might choose to play a 6-seed rather than take an open spot against (likely) a 9-seed in order to play close to home. Opening-round games would be challenges, not just calendar dates, and a team might choose to play its crosstown rival or the school that dispatched it last year. At the end of the day, the 15- and 16-seeds take what's left over: almost-certain losses to top programs, much as they do now.
There are three reasons to love this idea:
- It's fairer than the current system. If you take a crappy position, you have no one but yourself to blame
- It's fun. Great TV - coaches sweating, consulting spreadsheets and advance scouts, players issuing guarantees and chest-bumping. The speculation, second-guessing, and recriminations would be a March madness within themselves.
- It makes economic sense: let people make their own decisions. Would an 8-seed be better off swapping with a 12-seed, as Silver suggests? Find out what they would do given the choice!