What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

On Expanding the NCAA Basketball Tournament

There is a proposal afoot to expand the NCAA Basketball tournament to as many as 96 teams. It really isn’t like this is a new idea. Hell, at one point the idea was to just put everybody in the damn thing. Throughout its history, the NCAA tournament has been an ever-growing, ever-changing entity that has morphed into the sporting behemoth we know today.

  • 1939–1950: eight teams
  • 1951–1952: 16 teams
  • 1953–1974: varied between 22 and 25 teams
  • 1975–1978: 32 teams
  • 1979: 40 teams
  • 1980–1982: 48 teams
  • 1983: 52 teams (four play-in games before the tournament)
  • 1984: 53 teams (five play-in games before the tournament)
  • 1985–2000: 64 teams
  • 2001—present: 65 teams (with an “opening round” game to determine whether the 64th or 65th team plays in the first round)

Now, the idea is to expand to 96. It really matters little how many teams you put in. What really matters is the reason behind expansion: money. The irony is when  the tournament expanded to 64 teams, one of the main opposing arguments was “nobody will care about watered-down opening round games and therefore this expanded tournament can’t make any money.”

Face it...the excitement in this tournament comes from the Northern Iowas of the world. So why not let more of them in?

Be honest...the excitement in the early rounds of this tournament comes from the small schools, so why not include more of them?

Those opponents were wrong. The NCAA basketball tournament has become a license to print money. The 64-team format revolutionized this tournament. This was the format that brought the term “March Madness.” This was the format that had every office copy machine in the country spitting out brackets. This was the format for which CBS paid $6 billion to gain the exclusive broadcast rights.

The expansion of this tournament has come for other reasons besides money, but all have yielded positive results.  Prior to 1975, only one team per conference could be in the NCAA tournament. However, a few factors led the NCAA to expand the field, notably the 1971 season when USC was #2 in the country with only 2 losses (both to #1 UCLA), and the 1974 ACC Tournament Final between Maryland and NC State, both of whom were top 5 teams that year.

The big change that would occur in this tournament is the opening round which now takes two days to complete would now be more akin to an opening week.  Frankly, I’m all for it. I am one of those who believes the Opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament is one of the great sporting events this country has to offer. Granted, the detractors of such a plan have a point when they bemoan the fact expansion is all about money, but who cares? Let the NCAA make some dough from a great event (don’t even start the “pay the players” debate here; what the NCAA does with its cash is an entirely different conversation).

Take a look at what a 96-team field might look like. Al Featherston at ACCSports.com put together a peek of how such a field might be seeded.

EAST (Syracuse Regional)

New Orleans

Tuesday (March 16)

Game 1 – No. 9 Wake Forest vs. No. 24 Jacksonville
Game 2 – No. 12 Cornell vs. No. 21 Montana
Game 3 – No. 13 Virginia Tech vs. No. 20 Northeastern
Game 4 – No. 16 Seton Hall vs. No. 17 Wofford

Thursday (March 18)

Game 5 – No. 1 Kentucky vs. Seton Hall/Wofford winner
Game 6 – No. 8 Texas vs. Wake Forest/Jacksonville winner
Game 7 – No. 4 Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech/Illinois State winner
Game 8 – No. 5 Temple vs. Cornell-Montana winner

Saturday (Mar. 20)

Game 9 – Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner
Game 10 – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner

Those match-ups look eerily similar to the ones you already can’t pick correctly, yet with which you can’t contain your fascination.  Don’t think I don’t understand the skepticism of an organization that brought us Title 9 and the BCS; I mean the NCAA could screw up a grilled cheese sandwich, but this tournament is one of the things they have historically done right. Even if the NCAA are wrong about this expansion, you are still going to watch it, and you are still going to get your brackets busted.  So what’s the big deal?

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

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This entry was posted on March 24, 2010 by in Basketball and tagged , , .

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