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SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey Open to Expanding NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 12, 2022

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey believes it is time to start considering the possibility of expanding the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

According to SI.com's Pat Forde, Sankey wants to take a "fresh look" at March Madness in order to determine if it would be viable or necessary to add more teams to the field in the future.

Currently, 68 teams make the NCAA men's basketball tourney, and while Sankey said he is "not ready to make headlines there yet," he wants to have conversations about how more big-conference bubble teams can be included in the field.

Sankey referenced the 2022 College World Series to support his desire for more teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, as Ole Miss won the 2022 baseball national title despite being the final team in the field:

"If the last team in can win the national championship, and they're in the 30s or 40s from an RPI or [NCAA] NET standpoint, is our current approach supporting national championship competition? I think there's health in that conversation. That doesn't exclude people. It goes to: How do we include people in these annual national celebrations that lead to a national champion?"

While Sankey didn't make any mention of eliminating automatic bids for small conferences, Forde noted that small-conference commissioners and athletic directors are concerned about that happening if the field is expanded.

For Sankey's part, he wants to see more teams with top-flight talent in the tournament due to his belief that some of those teams who typically miss the tourney would have a legitimate chance to go on a deep run.

He specifically mentioned UCLA in 2021 and VCU in 2011 as teams that barely made the field and had to go through the First Four before ultimately making it all the way to the Final Four.

Sankey also noted that he felt Texas A&M, which went 27-13 last year, should have made the tournament last year and could have done some damage, although he admitted to being "biased" since the Aggies are an SEC team.

The current 68-team system has been in place since 2011. It was previously expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and then 65 teams in 2001 before going to the current format.

Although Sankey didn't provide specifics of how he would expand on the 68-team field, Forde noted that one popular proposal would see the field go from 68 teams to 80 teams with four First Four matchups in each region.

In that scenario, every conference would keep its automatic bid, meaning both large and small conferences would conceivably be happy with the system.

Sankey made it clear that nothing is imminent, but if the most recognizable commissioner in college sports is talking about expansion, there is likely a good chance it will at least be discussed.

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