ACC to Propose Expanding Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament to 72 Teams

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2018

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 16: The NCAA March Madness logo on the floor before the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament between the Texas A&M Aggies and the Providence Friars at the Spectrum Center on March 16, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Aggies won 73-69.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The NCAA expanded the field for the men's basketball tournament from 64 teams to 68 squads for the 2011 tourney, but some believe there is still room to grow.

Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford told reporters Thursday the ACC plans to propose a 72-team March Madness field.

"The idea of having two First Fours, if you will, maybe geographic," Swofford said. "That's such a quick turnaround. You could have one maybe in Dayton and one in the western part of the states. But we will be proposing that."

There are several factors that go into the proposal.

For starters, asking West Coast teams to travel to Dayton, Ohio, for the First Four is a tough ask. Miami Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga, per ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson, went so far as to call it "unreasonable."

Then there is the comparison to college football. Bowl games keep being created, allowing more student-athletes to get a postseason experience—and there is no better postseason experience in all of sports than March Madness. Including more teams gives a greater percentage of players an opportunity to chase their one shining moment.

"There are always bubble teams that could have and should have been invited that could go on a big run that don't get invited," Larranaga said, via Adelson. "... Sixty-eight of 351 Division I teams make the field. That's 19 percent of the teams. Seventy-two teams would make it 20 percent. That is not a huge increase when you compare it to how many football teams make it to a bowl game."

The ACC does not need an expanded field to be well-represented at the Big Dance. This is a conference that, in the 2018 tournament, had the second-most teams (nine) ever selected to a single tourney. The ACC could have had even more teams had Notre Dame (21-15) and Louisville (22-14) not been left out. With four additional teams, perhaps one or both squads would have been picked.

And then there is the action on the court. As the 2018 NCAA tournament showed, anything can happen once the ball is tipped.

"With a 16th seed finally upsetting a No. 1 seed, it is clear that there is great parity and even greater excitement in watching the early-round potential upsets," Larranaga told Adelson. "More teams, more excitement."

There have been several monumental upsets featuring 15th and 16th seeds in recent years. This year, UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to ever defeat a No. 1 seed in the men's tournament with a victory over Virginia. Middle Tennessee and Florida Gulf Coast are among the No. 15 seeds to shock the world.

Some are afraid that continuing to increase the number of teams involved will water down the tournament. On the other hand, it increases the likelihood of memorable moments.

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