The one thing lacking in recent years with the NCAA tournament is identity. When it comes to venues, there's consistency, but no personality. It hinders the TV product. All the floors look the same, with that black-and-blue, generic NCAA design. I hate it.
So it's refreshing the NCAA announced this morning that Dayton would continue to host the First Four for the next two seasons. At least we have something familiar, something good and proven and not so bland when it comes to NCAA tournament sites. Unfortunately, the floor's bound to look the same.
Dayton has served as the site that is essentially the appetizer to the monstrous opening weekend, and has hosted opening-round games since the field expanded to 65 teams a decade ago. Even though many were underwhelmed by so-called First Four in its first year, keeping the start of the NCAA tournament in the Gem City was the right call.
There are connotations to the newly designated first round, wherein four games are played -- two between 16 seeds and two between at-large squeakers-by. With VCU going from Dayton to the Final Four last year, there's a brand to build, a theme to embrace, a storyline of hope to sell for the NCAA. And with every other round rotating sites each year, it's good that University of Dayton Arena can lay claim to this. The city and the school has embraced its niche role well.
"Dayton has hosted 87 tournament games over the last 41 years, including the start of each championship since 2001, and the feedback from participating schools, the community’s enthusiasm and the commitment demonstrated by the University of Dayton staff make Dayton an ideal host for the First Four,” Ohio State athletic director and chair of the tournament committee Gene Smith said in a statement. "Last year, the committee explored several options when determining how the First Four should look and where it would be played. We decided Dayton would be best to host the inaugural event and now we believe we should start the championship in Dayton through the championship’s 75th anniversary in 2013. We’ll continue to evaluate the First Four and explore how we can work with our hosts in Dayton to make it even better."
What's intriguing, and unprecedented, is that Dayton also gets the second- and third-round games in the 2013 tournament. That could serve as a small benefit if the selection committee opts to put first-round teams into the same bracket as the Dayton games.
Many believe today's news was just a formality, that Dayton was always destined to keep the First Four. I'm all for it. The NCAA tournament has evolved, somewhat for the worse, in the past 10 years. Anything that keeps with some tradition and familiarity is fine by me.Photo: AP