Tournament Expansion Absurd

by John Furgele

Jim Boeheim thinks North Carolina is a very good team and if the NCAA expands its tournament to 96 teams, they could scare someone.  Well, I guess Boeheim wasn’t watch Duke drub the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium last weekend, because if he were, he would have bit his tounge.

Expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams would be a mistake—a big mistake.  Yes, if you include the NIT, which has 32 teams, you could certainly eliminate the NIT and have one big 96 team tournament. 

But why?  The NIT serves its purpose.  It is a nice consolation prize for many teams.  A team like Stony Brook, which won the Anmerica East regular season title, then lost to Boston in the conference tournament will embrace a trip to the NIT.  But, nobody really cares about the NIT, which is not a knock on very good basketball, it just is what it is. 

The regular season in college basketball is dreadfully boring.  Nobody really pays attention to college hoops until the day after the Super Bowl.  Too many games, too many neutral site tournaments and an oversaturation of television has led to the demise of the regular season.  The only real drama is right now.  Which teams are in, which are out and which are on the bubble.  How many teams can play their win by doing well in their conference tournaments; how many will play their out?

The NCAA Tournament is a fantastic event.  It offers many games, all of which are extremely crucial.  It’s one and done, the ultimate drama.  Expanding the field to 96 teams wouldn’t kill the tournament, but it deaden the regular season even more.  A team like Connecticut wouldn’t have to worry about makng the field as they would be in in a bloated 96 team field. 

Proponents of “96” also forget how great the conference tournaments are.  They, too would be diminished by having more teams.  This year, a team like Syracuse has nothing to worry about, but what about the 2007 Orange?  They came into New York needing two wins to be considered.  Instead, led by senior Gerry McNamara, they won four games and the title.  With a 96 team field the drama would have been gone. 

Once again, we have to stop as a society.  We have to stop saying that going 20-11 and missing the NCAA Tournament means you had a bad season.  We have to stop trying to placate mediocrity by allowing 6-10 conference records to make the postseason.  We have to stop trying to make everybody feel good. 

We have gotten soft as a society, there is no doubt.  Part of that softeness includes inclusion.  Everybody deserves a chance, everybody should make $20 per hour and everybody deserves national health care.  Isn’t this why we are such economic chaos?  We have simply tried to give everything away or if that didn’t work, take it without working for it.  We have to realize that you can’t offer rewards for merely participating.  South Florida is 20-11.  The Bulls have improved and are certain to make the NIT, but if they win two more games, they may find themselves in the Big Dance.  A 96 team tournament would reward them because of sheer numbers.  Is that the path we want to go down?  I hope not.

Sorry, but not everybody belongs in the NCAA Tournament.  Boeheim insists that the his theory comes from the fact that the best 64 teams do not make the field, an obvious shot at the small conferences like the NEC or the Atlantic Sun. 

But that’s why the tourney is great.  Sure, the best 64 aren’t there, but the best 20 are and it is right that one of the best 20 win the tournament.  Creating a bloated field will cause more disinterest from the general public.  While I think the “office brackets” are overplayed, it is fun to fill out a bracket.  With 96 teams, is the secretary really going to concentrate long enough to fill out his-her bracket? 

Sixty four teams is fine.  If it isn’t broke, why fix it?

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