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Commentary: Expand the NCAA Tournament


Enlighten me, college basketball purists. Why shouldn’t the NCAA tournament expand to include 96 teams?

I know you’ve heard, but last month, according to a report from Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal, a proposal outlining a possible 31-team expansion to the tournament was sent from the NCAA to broadcast bidders, as the Association mulls opting out of its current television contract.

We’re talking mad money.

Here are the arguments I’ve heard you make.

“First round games will mean less.”

Really, so you’re going to tell me that you can distinguish the flaws between Morehead State and Radford?

You know, I like Fiji, it’s so much more watery than Dasani.

Ninety-six teams means 32 byes, and all that means is instead of watching the unwatchable 1-16 and 2-15 matchups, you’d have two more evenly matched teams in the first round.

The National Invitational Tournament is fun. Essentially, the expansion would be like adding on the first round of the NIT to the real thing.

And now you have low-seeds going into their disproportionate matchups with a little momentum and belief. You enhance both the first and the second rounds.

“The last weeks of the season wouldn’t be as entertaining because there wouldn’t be teams fighting to make it in.”

So, first you say you don’t want to see the tournament watered down, but you couldn’t do without the theater of teams fighting for spots in the ever exclusive 65-teamer. So, really what you are saying is that you would rather see the same game take place in a conference tournament?

Yet the conference tournament retains its importance.

So you go from Karl Rove fringe to Tea Bagger fringe, it still means the Sarah Palins of the conference tournament have a shot.

And, as an extension of the regular season, you still battle for tournament seeding, banners and pride, even if it means lower conference seeds are the ones fighting for their all or nothing shot.

See what I’m saying?

I think we’re making progress.

Perspective and parity: you knew this was coming.

There are 347 teams in Division I men’s basketball. By the strength of my ASU education, I surmise the tournament would represent roughly a quarter of Division I.

Let’s see professional sports.

The NFL has 12-of-32 teams make the playoffs — higher proportion.

The NBA and NHL both have 16-of-30 — higher proportion.

You want to compare it to college football, right?

Sixty-eight out of 120 is way too many, and all of those silly bowl names, Chik-Fil-A. Giggle, giggle.

Right. Bad comparison.

Still, for as poor of a product as 25 bowl games are, they represent more than twice as many lemons percentage-wise as the tournament would produce, besides the fact that the single-elimination basketball games are much more meaningful and watchable.

Your problem is that the number sounds too big.

It’s sports’ version of “psychic numbness”.

Reach Nick at nruland@asu.edu


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