Ryan Craig

Leave the NCAA Tournament alone

Posted December 10, 2009

There is talk that the NCAA could expand its men’s basketball tournament from the current 65-team pool.

I, for one, am hoping those talks go nowhere.

With the NCAA holding the option to back out of the final three years of its deal with CBS after the conclusion of this season, conversations are already being had about possible changes to the most exciting tournament in all of sports.

The last big expansion of college basketball’s season-ending playoff was in 1985, when the field grew from 48 to 64 teams.

Since that time, a 65th team, and one play-in game have also been tacked on.

But what would be the point of making the tournament even larger than it already is?


What else is new?

For once, I hope that the governing body of college sports acts in a manner that benefits the product, and not just the wallet.

More teams would mean more rounds, and more rounds would likely mean an earlier start.

If that were the case, what would happen to the major conference tournaments?

Would they be canceled altogether?

It used to be that the conference tournaments were given the respect they deserved. There was no opportunity to play for a national championship without a conference tournament title – and it’s still that way in the smaller conferences.

I'm not saying we should go back to allowing only one team from each conference into the tournament, but in the ACC, Big East, Big 12, etc…, some coaches have begun treating their conference tournaments like mere warm-ups for the Big Dance. Adding more games on to the end of the season would only motivate coaches to monitor the playing time of their greatest players even more.

I wouldn’t consider myself an ardent traditionalist, but I also don’t like the idea of diminishing the importance of conference tournaments even more than it already is.

Also, it’s not like you would be expanding the field to include the upper echelon teams – they’re already in.

What you are adding, in essence, are teams that quite frankly, aren’t that good.

Do we really need to be including the ninth-best team in the Big East, or the tenth-best in the ACC?

And, once you add on to the 65-team total, where does it end?

If you expand the bracket to include 96 programs, teams 66, 67, 68 and 69 that were on the outside looking in before would now be safely in, but all that does is ensure that teams 97, 98, 99 and 100 would take over the griping duties.

What about the importance of the regular season?

How can the NCAA say that one of the best things about college football is the fact that the BCS system as it’s currently set up emphasizes the regular season by ensuring every game matters, and then turn around and institute a tournament so big and forgiving in basketball that the best teams are allowed ten or twelve bad games without any measure of consequence?

You think the country’s best teams would give their all every night knowing they were already a lock for the postseason in mid-January?

Try again.

So called late-season “Bracket Buster” games won’t have nearly the significance, and early-season non-conference games won’t be the resume builders or breakers that they are now.

I get that there are more teams playing Division I basketball than ever, and that more of those teams that are competing are doing so at a higher level.

But in my eyes, that just makes the regular season and conference tournaments that much more exciting.

The NCAA finally got one right in March Madness – expanding things now would be just plain mad.


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  • tarheel1946 Dec 13, 2009

    There are too many teams now. There are not 65 teams with a chance in hell of winning the tournament and there certainly not 96.

  • Ken D. Dec 12, 2009

    For some reason, I am unable to edit my original post. The 16 teams not getting a bye would play the first and second rounds while major conference tourneys are underway.

  • Ken D. Dec 12, 2009

    When the NCAA allowed a new conference to join the party, it added a play-in game in order to prevent a mediocre team from a major conference to lose its bid to the big dance. For the unfortunate teams chosen for that game, one of them is denied the tournament experience the other 64 enjoy.

    If we are going to have a first round, with 63 teams getting a bye, we can do better. I suggest that the twelve weakest conferences not get a first round bye. Have their champions, plus four at large selections from those conferences, play the first round on the weekend that the major conferences now have their season ending tourneys. Have the winners of each of the four brackets earn a spot in the round of 64, with a seed of no lower than 12.

    The remaining 13 conferences have the remaining 60 spots with a first round bye. In this format, there would be seven additional spots for the major and mid-major conferences, so do away with the NIT.

    As it stands today, the teams from the minor conferences have little realistic shot at winning a tournament game. In my format, eight teams would win at least one game, and there is a realistic chance that one could beat a #5 seed and get to the fourth round. How great would that be for the players and their fans? And now, the #15 and #16 teams in each bracket would be from a power conference, adding to the chance that a #1 or #2 seed would be upset in the first round. That would add a little spice to the Thursday/Friday games.

    All this could be done with very little damage to the format that has made this tournament so special, and give the kids from the small schools a real tournament experience. I'd rather see this than watch a #33 seed play #96 in the first round, as has been proposed.

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