Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Tournament Expansion Would Add to Madness

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – As the first day of March Madness unfolded it was hard to see any reason why it needed reworking. Florida and Brigham Young University went to two overtimes, Villanova needed overtime to topple a 15-seed and meanwhile most of the coaches in the NIT are getting pink slips handed to them. Yet change might be on the horizon. 

It’s easy to hate the idea of tournament expansion – it dilutes the field – but it’s just as easy to see why the NCAA wants to, and maybe needs to, expand.  

First, here’s why it shouldn’t expand.  

Quite frankly, there aren’t 96 teams deserving of being given an opportunity at a national championship. Did St. John’s or Seton Hall really warrant being given the same opportunity to win a national title as Marquette? Did Bobby Gonzalez, before the firing, put up the kind of numbers to warrant putting a banner in Prudential Center saying how the Pirates made the Big Dance? Probably not. 

People have argued that the number of college basketball teams has expanded in the 25 years since the field last expanded. In that same time college football has added enough bowl games so that over half of the 117 teams get into the postseason. But of those teams only 10 get the chance to participate in the BCS and only two are given the chance to compete for a national title.  

Also, by going with a first-round bye, as has been suggested with a 96-team field, it becomes that much more difficult for anyone outside the top 32 teams to make any noise in the tournament because they’d have to play an extra day.  

Robert Morris getting all juiced up and giving Villanova a run for their money? Probably not, because they’d be playing on the first day against another at-large team, to whom they may or may not lose. If Ohio had had to play someone else before facing Georgetown, would they have been too burned out to pull off the impossible? Either way, giving teams like that a shot to beat a Goliath off the bat is what makes the NCAA tournament great. Indeed, there is something special about giving David the chance to slay Goliath. David shouldn’t have to go against some halfhearted at-large team to earn their chance.  

Illinois at 19-14 was hardly deserving of a spot in the NCAA tournament, but with a 96-team field they would get in with ease. Before the conference tournaments started, Joe Lunardi was asked to do a bracketology of the 96-team field. He came away with a field that included 13 Big East teams. Thirteen! That’s 81 percent of the league. Does being a participant mean anything at that point? It’s like giving trophies to everyone. 

Then there’s the other problem we saw in the Big East tournament, one which Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim was not happy about. In a bye system, lesser teams could potentially get a longer stay in the trip then their superiorly seeded counterparts. For instance, Syracuse played one game in the Big East tournament, losing to Georgetown in the quarterfinals, but South Florida and its fans were able to stay for two days, beating an abysmal DePaul team before losing to Georgetown just like Syracuse did. The top-seeded teams shouldn’t be able to play the Woffords of the tournament, rather than have an Old Dominion thrown upon them. 

Unfortunately, all of your concerns mean nothing unless you have a few billion dollars around to throw toward the NCAA because that is what this is all about. The NCAA doesn’t care about bubble teams – they care about money, and there is lots of it to be had. 

The current deal with CBS is worth a measly $6 billion, which is the GDP of a few former Soviet states. Right now the deal is in its eighth of 11 years. In the next three years there is a lot of money still to be dished out, but the NCAA has the option to get out of it and that’s what they’re looking to do. It’s better to negotiate now than in two years when the options are drying up. 

ESPN would love to take the madness off of CBS’ hands. ESPN just took the BCS back and the majority of nationally televised college basketball games will be on the Worldwide Leader. It’s a perfect match, and it’s why we’ll see a 96-team field.  

ESPN has the NIT, which is a shell of its former self and isn’t much of a ratings boost. The NIT isn’t much of a revenue driver for the NCAA either, so why not combine the two? This way the NCAA can lure ESPN and its wads of cash to the table, and ESPN can finally find a good reason to broadcast those NIT teams. By combining the NIT and the NCAA tournaments you have your 96-team field. 

The revenue from the NCAA tournament funds all those other championships. So the NCAA has to think less about the fans and more about the track and field championships and soccer championships. It might not seem fair to the casual fan to change it, but as an organization it makes perfect sense.  

That’s where the NCAA stands right now. They can keep the NCAA tournament in its current form with all the madness, or they can expand it at the risk of a diluted field, but the reward of a pumped-up cashbox.  

It wouldn’t be March without a little bit of madness, now would it? 

Ryan Travers is a senior in the College and a former Sports Editor at The Hoya. Follow him on Twitter at He can be reached at Illegal Procedure appears in every Friday issue of Hoya Sports.”

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