NCAA Tournament Expansion: A Genius Idea?

Marcus ShockleyCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 18:  Dexter Pittman #34 of the Texas Longhorns tries to block the shot of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons L.D. Williams #42 during the first round of the 2010 NCAA mens basketball tournament at the New Orleans Arena on March 18, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)
Dave Martin/Getty Images

The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is one of, and possibly the best, sporting event of the year. Sixty-five teams locked and loaded with dreams of hoisting the ultimate college basketball trophy in a winner-take-all, no-holds-barred basketball circus of mayhem.

This year the NCAA and many college coaches have been beating the war drums for tournament expansion, claiming that they may expand the tournament to (gasp!) 96 teams.

College coaches have it in their minds that such a move will be the Great Coach Employment Act, where they will be able to secure their jobs by getting into the expanded field. But of course, that's a fallacy, for as soon as it becomes easier to make the tournament, the bar will be moved. No longer will it simply be acceptable to just make the NCAA tournament. You'll have to at least advance to the second round of...64.

Most, if not all, of my fellow college basketball fans hate...and I mean, hate , the idea of NCAA tournament expansion. They hate it more than LSU fans hate Tim Tebow or more than the NBA hates zone defense. Fans see it as the watering down of a perfect system, and they don't care that Virginia Tech just missed the cut this year, because in reality, Virginia Tech wasn't going to win the title any more than Connecticut was.

But here's an idea that will get your team into the tournament with a .500 record and still keep the whole system in balance.

Take the NIT, also known as the also-ran tournament, the tournament where teams only get in if they just missed the NCAAs, or they had such a sub-par season they weren't even considered, and scrap it. At least in it's current meaningless incarnation, where the only teams playing hard are the teams who are just happy to be a postseason tournament of any kind. The better teams in the NIT don't even want to be in the NIT, anyway.

Take those 32 teams, and make that whole NIT nonsense into one big play-in tournament. for the 65th (or 66th ) seed. Want to keep dancing? Win the NIT.

I know, it sounds nuts, and of course I am being tongue-in-cheek, but why is the NIT around anyway? How great would it be to have the NIT winner get a spot in the Big Dance? And suddenly that No. 1 vs No. 16 game isn't so easy. Mississippi State, here's your shot to get back at Kentucky.

One giant play-in tournament, and suddenly nobody can whine about not getting a bid, and the NIT ratings go up, revenue goes up, the tournament expansion is barely accomplished without wrecking the awesome NCAA tournament.

Sure, I'm completely kidding. But...it's sad to consider that this idea is actually better than what the NCAA is considering.


I am afraid that there is no stopping the NCAA here. They have it in their head and our beautiful tournament will be dashed in favor of some behemoth farce. Meanwhile, the college bowl system still remains intact...really?

Marcus also writes for ACCBasketballRecruiting.com and BasketballElite.com.

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