Within the last 24 hours, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney has been quoted as saying a 96 team NCAA tournament is “probable” and will be addressed at an NCAA board meeting in Indianapolis at the end of April.
"I said from Day one that I would support the decision that came out of the (NCAA's) Board of Directors, which ostensibly is linked back to the presidents (in) the conferences," Delany said to USA TODAY . "And if that's where it ends up, I support that."
Now, expansion for commercial purposes is one thing. The NCAA believes it would see an increase in advertising and exposure, thus increasing its financial assets. But what about expansion in terms of the sanctity of the game?
The tournament has been compared to that of a secular holiday. The opening Thursday of the annual March extravaganza is like the opening ceremony of the Olympics; thrilling, gripping, full of potential.
And now someone—the NCAA brass—is trying to extinguish the torch.
Some may say expansion was inevitable, while others believe it could be prevented as long as big-time NCAA money-grubbers keep their greedy paws away from something so near and dear to everyone’s hearts.
It is like a postal worker trying to fight against the government: he will never succeed.
A 96-team tournament would hurt college basketball for numerous reasons, including:
Increasing mediocrity – How many college hoops analysts have said that this year’s tournament has been the weakest in years in terms of dominant teams and players? The answer is plenty, and adding about 30 more teams would only increase the level of mediocrity.
It would be like adding a below-.500 North Carolina team into the tournament and giving them an opportunity to play teams that lost only five games in the regular season.
Useless regular season – Speaking of the regular season, why should teams even go all out in the regular season and risk injuries and the like if they only have to win about 60 percent of their games and still make the tournament?
The only argument would be to gain a better seed come tournament time.
Irrelevant conference tournaments – Conference tournaments have been notorious for giving teams on the bubble the opportunity to make the tournament by winning their tourney or getting to the final game of the weekend.
In this case, conference tournaments would just become battles for seeding and mid-major conferences (like Conference USA) may end up prospering more because more of their teams may get in.
Too many games – Instead of the tournament starting on a Thursday, it would have to start on a Tuesday or Wednesday as nine seeds take on 24-seeds in the battle of teams nobody cares about.
Who really wants to watch two unknown or little-known programs duke it out? Only the students and alumni of those programs. Yawn.
No more Cinderellas – George Mason or Northern Iowa would become a distant memory.
More teams equals more competition and less of a chance to achieve Cinderella status. With so many teams and so many games, anybody can win on any given day.
Hurting records – What about teams which don't make the tournament every year, like Northwestern not making a tournament in many decades?
It would make such accomplishments seem a lot less memorable and almost a give-in. If it is easier to get into the tournament, why even celebrate the success of teams not even accustomed to it?
Maybe I am coming off as too grim about expansion, although many others feel the same way. It’s like the old adage, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
The tournament is already perfect as is, so why try to intentionally ruin a good thing?