In recent years, the NCAA has been like Brittney Spears in 2007; no matter what they do, they are criticized by the mass public and put under heavy scrutiny. But in the words of Harry from Dumb and Dumber, “Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this… and totally redeem yourself!”
On Thursday, the NCAA announced a plan to expand the tournament field to 68 teams; adding three teams rather than the previously discussed 31 which would have drastically watered down the greatest three weeks in sports.
Since rumors began to swirl about possibly expanding the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams, I have been vehemently against it. (Click here to see what this year’s tournament could have looked like it was a 96-team field.) Like the United States joining the Allied Powers after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I sided with the group believing, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Put your greed aside and leave the dance as it is.
The 68-team idea is one that I brought up when the 96-team field was initially brought up. (Yes, I am patting my own back thank you very much.) The additional three teams in the tourney means instead of one play-in game on Tuesday, there would likely be four play-in games to determine which 16 seed earns the right to get smacked around by the #1 seed. In the process, three more at-large bids are handed out.
Realistically, there were three teams who did not make the 65-team field who truly had their bubble bursts; Illinois, Mississippi State, and Virginia Tech. By expanding the field to 68 teams, these three teams all get in. Yes, there will still be programs who feel slighted even with the new format, but no matter how many teams are in the tournament; 65, 68, or 96, there will always been a few that are unhappy after Selection Sunday. In translation, expanding to 68 teams is BY FAR, the lesser of two evils.
On top of that, the NCAA has agreed to a 14-year deal with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting that will allow every single NCAA Tournament game to be broadcast on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV. No more having to buy special packages allowing you to see every game. No more dealing with CBS screwing up by jumping from game-to-game and almost certainly missing a great finish or two. No more having to go to the bar all day to watch four TV’s to catch every game. (Okay, maybe that last one is a downfall.) Either way, it is safe to say this new agreement has me more excited than Mel Kiper Jr. when he gets a new shipment of hair product.
So rather than crucifying the NCAA like we are all used to doing, let’s embrace them for a change. They satisfied their need to make more money while not tarnishing the NCAA Tournament and making it easier for the college basketball fan to enjoy every second of action.
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