NCAA.com put out a very good article today discussing the possibility of changes to the NCAA tournament format. The format hasn't really changed in over 20 years--other than the field being increased from 12 to 16--and the current regional system has left a lot to be desired.
Here's what chair of the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee and senior associate athletics director at Notre Dame, Tom Nevala had to say about the issue:
""You need to find buildings that are neutral sites, have NHL ice and ideally are within close proximity to the host school’s fan base. Right now for the most part, we really need the host to qualify if we are going to have good attendance and atmosphere at our regionals. In an effort to increase attendance, the NCAA has been working with the hosts to try and make tickets more affordable but the nature of neutral sites and non-traditional game times works against us a bit."
"Personally, I would like to see us move to an on-campus best-of-three series format for the first round. The top seeds would host regardless of size of its building. Right now we do it at the conference level and it works very well. There are upsets even with the home ice advantage and the atmosphere for everyone involved would be better."
"We have such great campus facilities that are such a part of the fabric of college hockey, it’s a shame that the national tourney isn’t played in them."
"The coaching body is so set on having the regional games at neutral sites that before the committee would ever propose something like this we would need to work with them to try and get everyone on board,"
Who are these coaches, and can we make sure they are sent to the regional in America's Armpit, Bridgeport, where they are likely to be murdered in front of few, if any, witnesses? Maybe that's a bit extreme. How about Fort Wayne instead?
Even beyond the fact that the NCAA chooses to make their most important games seem as dull as possible in empty arenas, there is a competitive issue with single-elimination games that I feel is often overlooked as well. I don't have exact numbers, but scoring in college hockey has gone way down in the past 20 years, making single-elimination games little more than a coin flip that comes down to which teams gets the lucky bounce at the right time. A best-of-three series rewards better teams, and makes upsets much more meaningful.