NCAA Tournament Seems Set on 96 Teams
Based on NCAA Greg Shaheen’s outline of a proposed expansion, it seems that the big move is ready to be made. Rarely do you see so much detail being made public, unless you plan on implementing it.
* 65 teams to 96 teams
* Top 32 seeds get 1st round byes
* Tournament would start on Thursday and Friday for the bottom 64
* The winners would play the Top 32 seeds in the next round on Saturday and Sunday
* The next round would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday
* Next round would take place on Thursday and Friday
* No decision on locations for the early round (if they will be the same as the top 32 teams)
* NIT will likely be eliminated
* More specifics will come out about revenue sharing
What we don’t know is what teams will get in.
It would seem that the conference tournament champions will retain their auto-bids with the remainder of the bids coming from an at-large pool.
In other words, those 5 bubble teams that are left out each year…they are now in…along with 26 other schools.
But others are urging for all conference champions and conference tournament champions to get a bid. Don’t expect to see this happening since a conference champion from a lower conference like the Atlantic Sun, could just rest their players, lose a game, and all of a sudden your’ got USC-Upstate and Kennesaw St. in the tournament. Both teams would likely be ranked in the 250-300 range and not in the top 96. If the tournament is about getting the best teams in (after the 31 autobids), then you can scrap the Coach K plan of (2) autobids per conference.
Oddly, while expanding to 96 teams might seem like a way to water down the pool, you might actually see more upsets.
Take UNC this year. They were left out of the NCAA tournament, and were a 4 seed in the 32 team NIT.
If the NCAA field were at 96 teams, that means UNC would have fit into a 16 seed and played in the opening round. Had they won, they could then have been #16 playing against #1 Kentucky. There has never been an upset of a #1 seed. But that’s because they are usually games of strong power conference teams against the weakest teams in the tournament. UNC had a down year, but they would have had a better chance of beating Kentucky this year than #16 seed East Tennessee St. did.
Another casualty of a 96 team field is the NIT tournament. Sure, it’s not the NCAA tournament, but it still carries much tradition and will be sad to see go. Those players who advance to the Final Four get a trip to New York as a reward for their hard work. Now, they’ll get a 1st round NCAA tournament game in a 1st round location. Perhaps Dayton will be the trivia answer to “Who was the last NIT champion?”.
The big winner in all this could be ESPN. They’ll make a hard push to secure the TV rights since they’ll have multiple broadcast options such as ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2. Say good bye to the Women’s Tournament on ESPN if they can take the mens away from CBS.