There’s a reason nobody liked the computer generated college football BCS and preferred the “play to stay” style NCAA tournament. It’s inherently anticompetitive and anti-democratic for candidates to be locked out of debates because of some arbitrary formula based on what works best for television, rather than competing head-to-head and letting the public and the voters decide.
A March Madness style tournament would work better from every perspective: the GOP would get a better showcase for candidates, the networks would get a better product and the voters would get to see real debates not a slew of talking points.
Imagine the following scenario: Rather than have 10 debaters on stage and 6 relegated to obscurity with a consolation prize panel, how about giving all 16 a chance to shine by splitting them into brackets?
Candidates would be broken down by region, and there would be two reach debates with the top two polling candidates from each bracket getting to move on to the next round after the Iowa caucuses.