86 the 96 idea – NCAA tournament expansion idea gets Major #Fail grade

3 02 2010

On the biggest college football day between the National Championship and Spring practices (the NFL draft doesn’t count), let’s talk some college basketball.

Some knuckleheads got the great idea to expand the college basketball tournament – one of the greatest sports inventions since the forward pass – from its 64-team format to a 96-team mega-format.

What idiot on what planet thought that was a good idea? I know who; some moron who thought adding 32 more teams would generate millions of dollars in added revenue for college basketball.

WRONG! And here’s why.

The 64 teams (ok, Mr Technical, 65) already scrape the barrel of the mid-majors with borderline competition for the major conference champions. Yes it is exciting to see a #2 seed upset by a #15 seed. But that #15 seed is usually a good team from a small college and small conference. They deserve their shot in the spotlight, but no one takes them seriously for a chance to win the whole tournament. That’s why they are seeded against the top seeds – to lose early and go home.

The NIT is filled with all the bubble teams that had a shot at making it, and that tournament is horrible. People don’t watch it on TV or at the venues. What once used to be the pinnacle of college basketball, was replaced by the current tournament (and its subsequent revisions) and is now relegated to a “feel good” for some of the mediocre teams who managed to break .500.

If you add 32 more teams to the NCAA tournament, it’s like adding the NIT and the NCAA Tournament together, and then can you imagine the horrible talent featured in the NIT? And don’t for one second think that the NIT is going anywhere. It’s tradition will keep it alive.

And the only way for a field of 96 to work, and STILL keeping the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four rounds in tact is to incorporate an extensive series of byes or simply separating the top 32 from the bottom 64 until the 64 worked its way down to 32, which would then be merged and re-seeded with the top 32 and formatted like the current tournament. This would extend the series at least by one more unwatchable week of horrible college basketball. And here’s a news flash; no one would watch the tournament until the group was reduced down to the final 32 or even Sweet 16.

So technically, expanding the field would actually hurt the NCAA tournament’s pocketbook because you have to pay for the travel and venues of those extra games somehow, and minimal attendance numbers will not put the ledgers in the black.

So why mess with it? There is no good reason at all to mess with the current SUCCESSFUL formula.

I am totally OK with adding an extra “Bubble Buster Night” adding four more teams to the tournament, making four “play-in” games (one for each bracket) vice the current single “play-in” game. At least people would watch that. People would even attend the game, especially if you held all four games in one venue.

My suggestion is, if the NCAA wants to tinker with a postseason playoff tournament, spend the time and resources wisely and figure out a playoff system for the college football BCS series. Now that is what fans want. Listen!

Mr Pressbox Out!!


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