A 96-Team NCAA Tournament? Say It Ain't So

Jacob NitzbergAnalyst IDecember 11, 2009

This is a topic held near and dear to the hearts of the guys over at Cubicle GM.  You see, not only is the NCAA Tournament one of the most, if not the most exciting sporting event around. It's one of the few things that unites cubicle dwellers across the country.

Earlier this week, the NCAA met with broadcast companies on both network and cable TV to determine how much they could increase revenue by increasing the size of the men’s basketball tournament from 65 teams to a whopping 96. 

In effect, the top-32 teams would get a bye while the other 64 faced off in an additional opening round.  Hey, at least it wouldn’t have a play-in game right?

With the exception of that 64 vs. 65 game that determines who gets to lose to the No. 1 overall seed, the NCAA Tournament is absolutely perfect as it is.  The symmetry, the bubble watch, the upsets, and most importantly, the bracket, all work together to create a sporting event that wastes countless hours and dollars of worker productivity every March.

Filling out a bracket (or 15) is almost a rite of passage, and the office pool is a sacred tradition that is done in workplaces from your local bank or hospital all the way up to the top office in the land

For three weekends out of the year we have an extra reason to Alt-Tab, to become an expert at hitting the Boss Button, to duck into a conference room and have a “meeting” with co-workers that solely involves filling out brackets.

Sure, the biggest fans will still do all those things, but what about the casual fan that barely pays attention gets to participate because the concept is so simple?  The casual fan that usually ends up beating the guys who have watched almost every game the entire season. 

With a 96-team tournament, there would be another 32 games to pick, something that might turn off less-interested participants.  And with all those extra teams, we’d certainly have to switch to legal-sized paper right?

Expanding the field would not only make it more complex for casual fans but would throw a wrench in the strategies of the most hardcore bracket enthusiast.  If the tourney expanded to 96 teams, how would they seed the four different brackets? 

Will we now be wondering when the first No. 24 seed will upset a No. 1 seed in addition to a No. 16 seed?  Or will those two teams be fighting for the right to be No. 16? 

In order to pick a 12-5 upset, we have to make sure the 12-seed makes it there first.  And while every pool scores their bracket pool differently, the one universal rule is that the first round is worth 1 point.  Is the play-in round now worth 0.5?  These are some of the many questions that would need to be answered if the field expanded.

So please, all-mighty NCAA, don’t just look at the financial aspect of expanding the field.  Think about the fact that your 64-team tournament is nearly perfect as it is and leave our precious brackets alone.