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Bob Huggins Suggests Separate NCAA Basketball Tournament for Major Schools

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVOctober 21, 2021

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Bob Huggins-coached teams have a long history of being knocked out of the NCAA tournament by higher-seeded teams.

Well, the West Virginia coach has an idea that could stop that from happening: get rid of Cinderellas entirely. 

Huggins suggested major conference teams extract themselves from the NCAA tournament and create an event of their own while speaking Wednesday at Big 12 media day. 

"They're doing it in football," Huggins said, per Myron Medcalf of ESPN. "Why wouldn't they do it? The presidents and athletic directors that have all the juice, why wouldn't they do it? Makes no sense why they wouldn't do it. I think it's more 'Why wouldn't they?' than 'Why would they?' And then, the other people, they can have their own tournament."

Let's start out with the fact that Huggins' basic premise is flawed. The College Football Playoff is currently considering expansion that would make it more likely—not less so—that a non-Power Five school makes the tournament. Expanding the playoffs would offer non-power schools their best shot at competing for a national title in decades.

Furthermore, the gap between major conference teams in football is exponentially higher than in basketball. Division 1 college football teams can give out 85 scholarships, compared with 13 basketball scholarships. There is also the matter of the NBA's one-and-done rule making things more difficult for higher-level basketball programs. Alabama football can hoard a never-ending assembly line of 5-star recruits that have been in Nick Saban's system years before getting significant playing time. John Calipari has a whole new starting five every season at Kentucky.

The most experienced teams in March tend to be mid-majors that can strike fear into talented-but-young major programs. Huggins-coached teams have been knocked out in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament 16 times in his 25 appearances. Since becoming a "major conference" coach at West Virginia, Huggins has lost in the first weekend to a non-power team on three occasions.

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This certainly isn't an argument about competitive balance. 

Huggins' argument seems to be about money: "Those Cinderella schools are putting 200 people, at best, in their gym. We're putting 14,000."

College basketball makes the overwhelming majority of its money via the NCAA Tournament, in large part because fans love its novelty and television networks value three weeks' worth of highly watched television. Stripping it down and creating something that is unlikely to attract as many fans—particularly casuals who adore Cinderellas—seems more likely to lose the schools money, rather than creating some financial bonanza. 

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