There has been a lot of talk lately about the NCAA considering expanding the tournament from 65 to 96 teams. Just about everyone has voiced their opinions the subject. Now it is my turn to throw my hat into the ring.
Surprise! I think it is a bad idea! I agree with most of what other writers and analysts have said:
- It will make the tournament too large and unwieldy.
- Offerring so many tournament bids will decrease the significane of the regular season and conference tournaments.
- The additional 31 teams don’t deserve to be in the tournament.
Most of the discussions I have heard on this topic have been pretty forthright about the true impetus for this plan: Money. A bigger tournament means more money for the NCAA and participant schools, as well as national exposure for smaller schools, which can help with recruiting and fundraising. This gets at the question of the true nature of the tournament. Is the tournament meant to be a competition for the championship of DI college basketball? Or is it meant to be an exhibition of the talents of some remarkable teams and individuals?
Unfortunately, I don’t think one goal can be pursued without sacrificing the other. If it is an exhibition, then by all means expand the tournament. As I said before, it will generate revenue and exposure for schools, and serve as a tremendous celebration for another season of college basketball. If, however, the goal is to crown a legitimate champion then it makes no sense to expand the tournament. The teams which would be added would not realistically be capable of competing for a championship. Teams that don’t make the cut at 65, would still most likely end up as 12 seeds or lower in the 96 team format. Only one 12 seed has ever reached the Elite Eight (Missouri, 2002). Only two 11 seeds have ever reached the Final Four (LSU, 1986; George Mason, 2006). No seed lower than the #8 Villanova Wildcats of 1988 have ever even played for a championship, let alone won. Even in the current 65 team format, including all the possibilities, miraculous or otherwise, there are still only 32 teams who can really say they have a prayer of winning a championship. Now I love a Cinderella as much as the next guy, but if the goal is to crown a champion why add 31 more teams that don’t have a chance of being there in the end?
Besides, I have enough trouble filling out my bracket as it is. I haven’t won a March Madness pool since Trajan Langdon was still lacing them up for the Dukies. I really don’t need any extra games to confuse myself with.