Time for a NBA play-in tournament

ON A PLANE TO BOSTON -- Before we start, a little background: I'm headed to Beantown right now for the annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. The brainchild of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, this event is where some of the best minds in the sports analytics community gather for a weekend every year to renew acquaintances, share ideas and stay out far later than they should.

It's the fourth year for the event, which has grown every year and is now sponsored by the Worldwide Leader. But today's Per Diem hearkens back to the first conference, when it was a much smaller endeavor. There, in a creaky MIT classroom, Bill James -- the renowned baseball analyst who basically created this entire line of business out of thin air -- noted that analysts had become really good at evaluating players and teams and offering solutions, but had offered little on how to fix the game itself.