A 68-Team Field?: Expand the NCAA Basketball Tournament the Right Way

A. Enslen ButlerContributor IMarch 16, 2010

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 14:  Barry Stewart #22 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks to pass the ball against John Wall #11 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the final of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena on March 14, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 75-74 in overtime.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Everyone has heard the drumbeat to expand the NCAA Tournament.

Florida coach Billy Donovan, whose team was on the bubble and got in this season, is in favor of it. Other coaches are in favor of it. 

It's easy to see why: Coaches are evaluated by making the tournament.

You make the tournament, you are successful. If not, athletic directors need to find someone who can make the tournament.

Most people I know are dead set against. They say expansion would dilute the field. But they say that more basketball is not the worst thing in the world.

So I have a compromise. The compromise would increase the field but keep the current structure.

My idea: Make it a 68-team field and have more play-in games. Instead of having one game, have three and make the winners play the No. 1 seeds.

Currently, the 15th and 16th seeds are warm-up games for the top seeds. Let's look at the 16th seeds: Lehigh, East Tennessee State, Vermont, and the winner of tonight's play-in game between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop.

Does anyone expect any of those teams to beat Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, or Duke?

The 15th seeds: UC Santa Barbara, Morgan State, North Texas, and Robert Morris. There is a chance they could beat Ohio State, West Virginia, Kansas State, and Villanova, but it is not likely. So, let the teams that would have been 15th and 16th seeds play each other.

By making some mid-major tournament winners compete in play-in games, it will allow three more teams to make the tournament. The "bubble teams" that would benefit could be from the power conferences or mid-majors. For example, this year's last three teams out—Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, and Illinois—would get into the tournament as double-digit seeds.

I know the biggest negative: No one will care about these play-in games. Well, there are some people who do not care now. But I will be watching the play-in game Tuesday.

Schools who play in these games will get more national exposure than they have gotten all season.

Ideally, I would want to keep the tournament as is. A 96-team field is a horrible idea.

But play-in (err, opening round) games at the bottom of the bracket would benefit teams that would be on the bubble in a normal season.

What do you think about expansion? If it is going to happen, would a 96-team field work? Let me know by posting in the comments section.