Why It Should Not Happen, But Will: NCAA Tournament Expansion
Even though Duke claimed their fourth national title last week, stories were still abound in the college basketball world. One of the more hotly debated issues is the decision to expand the NCAA tournament from its current and seemingly immaculate form of 65 teams to 96 teams.
The 2010 basketball season was not the only thing that ended last Monday. The NCAA and CBS's 11-year, $6 billion television contract came to a close as well, prompting the NCAA to begin fielding offers for new televising rights.
More teams equals more telecasts. More telecasts would equal more money. And we all know what more money leads to.
Although nothing is official, numerous unnamed sources involved have called it a "done deal." Looking at arguments on both sides, the most sense tends to be with non-expansion. And I tend to agree.
Just because college football ruins their postseason doesn't mean basketball should do the same.
1. Expansion would water down the regular season.
Increasing the number of teams so drastically would obviously drop the necessary credentials to make the tournament. A popular gauge in today's game is 20 wins and you're in the discussion, maybe the tournament. Having so many more invites would drop the number considerably to 17 or 18.
This would allow mediocre teams from power conferences to get more nods rather than everyone's hopes for expansion: Another Butler (more on that later). Texas Tech, UConn, and St. John's would have bids this year with their resumes.
Not to mention the disappearance of high-profile pre-conference matchups. This is often the time of the season where teams look to add "signature wins" and strengthen their NCAA tournament appeal. Games this year like North Carolina vs. Texas and Kansas vs. Tennessee would both shrink in number and importance. Coaches confident in their chances with the expanded versions will not risk a loss in scheduling a previously NCAA tournament booster.
2. Effect on other tournaments
Some liken the expansion of the NCAA as an antitrust violation. The "other" postseason tournaments (NIT, CBI) would be decimated by their top invites bailing for a chance to lose a play-in game. Granted, 18.7 percent of teams advancing to the playoffs is not too high, especially when compared to other sports. But that's exactly what the NIT and CBI are for. Thirty-seven percent of NFL teams make the playoffs, but that league has a single posteason tournament.
3. More Cinderella Stories
More invites would give us more feel good stories like Butler right?
Butler's run gave hope to mid-majors across the nation that they can dance with the big dogs too. Butler, however, isn't as representative as some may think.
In the past 20 years, they have had four coaches including a one-year stint by Ohio State's Thad Matta in 2000. This absence of a coaching carousel allowed for Butler to establish consistency, regularity, and a brand of basketball best suited to their players.
This self-knowledge allowed Butler to gain national prominence in making their first NCAA tournament in 1997 before becoming a household name with their 2003 Sweet Sixteen run. This exposure allowed Butler to swoop Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard from more prestigious in-state schools Purdue and Indiana.
Granted, more "mid-majors" may be dancing with expansion, but few are equipped like Butler was for a deep tournament run.
4. For the good of the country
With the current health care debate and confidently ending the recession, President Obama has enough on his hands. He doesn't need to be filling out a bracket with 96 teams.
So if you're a proud American, just say no to expansion.
But then again, as mentioned earlier, more teams equals more money. And with ESPN currently paying $495 million over the next four years to televise all five BCS football games, the question becomes not so much how many teams to expand to, but where do I sign?
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