Not Big Ten expansion, a different kind of expansion. NCAAB tournament expansion.
It’s been a sizzling topic recently among the college basketball community, and it seems to be heavily supported by many coaches and members of the NCAA.
These talks are nothing new amid NCAA officials and head coaches, especially Jim Boeheim who has pushed for expansion since as early as 2006 and has made his thoughts very clear.
In an interview with Colin Cowherd, Boeheim said, "(The tournament needs to be expanded) Now more than ever…Connecticut was out of the tournament, and they still may be out, but they're a team that can win games in the Tournament. That's why we need an expansion."
At first I was a little unsure about expansion to the tourney, which is and has been my second Christmas for a long time now (I even had my mom call me out of my high school my senior year so I could watch the early games). I thought, “Why fix something that isn’t broken”? I mean we are talking about a tournament that college football and other sports are envious of.
Then I dug a little deeper into the facts and saw that there hasn’t been an expansion of the tournament since 1985. Twenty-five years ago. That is a long, long time. There are 300 odd teams in college basketball, and it’s incredible that there hasn’t been an expansion yet to fit the expanding league.
So I ask what would be so bad about adding teams to March Madness?
As a fan, I want it to last as long as possible. I want to see more games, and expanding the tournament would do just that. It would also help out the recruiting for all those programs that don’t sit on a golden cushion on the top of their major conferences. And most importantly it allows all March Madness fans to see more David type teams like VCU, George Mason, and Western Kentucky. These teams bring the most fun to the tournament. They bring stories of passion, hard work, and pure dedication and that part of the tourney sweeps me off my feet and keeps me glued to the television.
Plus we all know the first round of the tournament is the most astonishing and exhilarating part of March Madness anyways and expanding would allow more of these first round battles.
I meant who didn’t love watching VCU in 2007 take out Duke (besides the Cameron Crazies)? Who didn’t love when Western Kentucky (as a twelve seed) took out the number five Drake in 2008? Its tremendous television and it’s filled with everything that Americans love. Why do you think “Bubble talk” begins in January? Because it adds another dramatic element to college hoops. We get two to three months worth of teams hoping and praying they get a bid to the big dance, causing them to bite their nails for weeks upon weeks with every big win from other questionable teams. It’s the American dream but told through basketball. It’s people working hard to get ahead of “The Man” (in this case the man being the Duke’s, the UNC’s, the UCONN’s, and the MSU’s of the world).
With expansion the “bubble” would only get bigger.
IF that is not enough to convince even the most passionate and purist of folk, how about this little tidbit: this season marks one of the most talented and deepest leagues in recent memory. Notre Dame (17-10, 6-8), Marquette (16-8, 7-5), South Florida (16-9, 6-7), and UCONN (15-11, 5-8) are all on the bubble and that’s just the Big East. What about Arizona State, Cal, Clemson, Cornell, Dayton, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, UNI, Rhode Island, and Richmond. All on the bubble, and all talented teams.
Creating more spots in the tournament will only make one of the most stimulating months of the year, more thrilling. And by no means will this lessen the quality of March Madness one bit.
With that said I want it to be known that I am not in favor of going from 65 to 96 teams. That is way to many and it would eliminate the NIT all together (which I'm a fan of). But, I am in favor of expanding it anywhere from eight to sixteen teams, which seems to be the perfect amount of seeds to add.
Whether the NCAA adds in more play-in games, or gives first round byes, I don’t care. All I know is that I want more college basketball. I want teams like Richmond and Rhode Island to get a bid. I want to see them do some collective damage on higher seeds.
Most of all I want to see a higher quality of basketball. And I think with more bubble teams and mid majors in the tournament, that dream will be accomplished.
But hell, what am I fusing over? It’s not like Iowa has a chance even if they expanded the tournament to 120 teams.