Someone I know asked me late last week what is my opinion on the NCAA’s inevitable decision to expand the men’s basketball tournament from 65 teams to 96.
My official response was “personally, I’m not a fan of it, but it’s going to happen. Better sit back and get used to it.”
I’m not a fan of changing something that has worked successfully, but I’m open to the idea of 96 teams. Let’s face it, the tournament has went from 8 to 64 teams since 1939, and no one complained. But with that said, I’m not the head of the NCAA. There may have been some push-back when the field expanded to 64 in 1985, but it has done quite well.
I’m going to break this topic into two blogs because I’m not going to turn this into a manifesto. I think the 96-team field can work, if some tweaks and ideas can be considered.
The committee decisions over the years have become the sore point for many fans, especially coaches, who feel their team has been slighted. By no means the committee are a bunch of non-sports business wonks. Many of them, mostly athletic directors, are former college athletes. They know what they’re doing.
There are cases where they need more information about a certain team that is sitting on the fence, wondering if they will play in the tournament or not. A suggestion made was to add coaches to the committee, but no one has yet answered how many coaches should be on the committee.
Idea: use retired coaches to follow three leagues in a region. Example: Lute Olson will follow the Big West, Pac-10, and WAC. Tom Davis follows the Southern, Mid-Atlantic, and Big East. When the committee asks for more information on a team that wasn’t on the radar before, these coaches can provide the information and consult the committee about each team.
I think college basketball plays too many games. From season opening tournaments to conference tournaments, the players spend more time away from campus and class than football players do, despite what the BCS says. To accomplish such a feat of scheduling these games will require a lot of work and shuffling around.
Idea: either eliminate season opening tournaments, or wipe out exhibition games completely. All the rounds are to stay in the Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday format. It’s a stretch to ask teams to play a Thursday/Saturday/Monday type of schedule, and then turn around and prepare to play again in 2-3 days. Adding another weekend to the tournament is simpler.
Later this week, we’ll look at the teams, locale of games, and offer more ideas on how this expansion can be successful.
Sorry folks, it will happen, so here’s your chance to play NCAA and give suggestions on how do it right with 96 teams.
What are your thoughts and ideas?