As you probably have heard, the NCAA is on its way to expanding the NCAA basketball tournament from 65 to 96 teams, effectively adding 2 days to the tournament opening week and giving possible byes to the top 32 teams. This idea has been talked about many times, and as our history has shown us, the tournament has indeed been open to the idea of expansion, expanding from 4 to 8 to 16 to 32 teams before settling on their 64 teams now (with a play-in game to determine the 64th). As a proponent of the system they have now, I sincerely hope that this doesn't come to fruition.
What lies behind this radical idea of change? Money. Money. Money. In the current agreement between the NCAA and CBS, all games are televised regionally with free coverage online. In the current system, CBS is losing money as the only viewers who are watching the Thursday, Friday day games are people who don't work, work at home, or who watch from their offices, cutting out the entire student, worker, and traveling portion of America. Although the extra rounds would be played on weekends, the extra games would generate more revenue as predicted by the NCAA. However, the deal with CBS is up in 2011 and as of now, there are no real bidders to host the tournament. The reasoning is that this model simply doesn't produce enough revenue and is actually starting to put CBS in a deficit.
If there was ever a year to argue against this expansion it would be this year with one of the best opening weekends in given memory. The expansion of the tournament would just lead to more mediocre teams getting in and less compelling games throughout. After a certain point (and we have seen this point to be the 65th team) teams start to get extremely similar and have barely anything to differentiate themselves from another (the argument here would say that this would lead to more exciting games... however this would diluted basketball of its real excitement and pressure when two GOOD teams face off against each other... Nobody wants to watch two bad teams play each other even if they are evenly matched). And that is exactly what will happen, BAD teams will get into the tournament. Do you really think that by expanding the tournament the committee will choose more Missouri State's? Or more Boston College's? The answer is always going to lie in a big conference. So if you want to see the cellar-dwellers of the Big 12 play against DePaul have fun, but I certainly do not.
Plus, an expansion would get rid of the NIT which is owned by the NCAA, giving them a lot less revenue... I'm not even going to get into the proposed idea of combining the two tournaments.
So please, get money out of the equation. This is the greatest tournament setting we have in this country and to mess with it just makes no sense. Take the small loss compared to the gain and continue on the path it is in.
http://360sport.blogspot.com/, College Basketball