The 96 Team Tourney: Bad For Basketball
We’ve heard the same phrase from all angles: If it’s not broke, why fix it? If, in a little under two weeks, the NCAA decides to expand its Men’s basketball tournament to a 96 team field, it won’t be fixing it, it will be breaking it.
Ask anyone who’s taken the time to project the field of 65: there’s barely enough worthy teams as it is, so now we’re going to include more? The Old Dominions, Ohios and Murray States showed that teams from small conference’s can play with the big boys, but with a 96 team field, that’s not what we’ll get. Unless strict guidelines are put in place to determine a team’s eligibility, we may get a small handful of Northern Iowas, but will get a large dosage of Northwesterns, South Floridas, and Virginias. The field will be flooded with sub-standard big conference schools, dimming the magic on this countries greatest sporting event.
That feeling you get late in the afternoon on Selection Sunday in March? Gone. With nearly a third of the field, and about 90% of major conference team, guaranteed a spot in the dance, the prestige of qualifying for the right to experience March Madness will be lost. Think college football’s regular season would be left meaningless if the season ended with an 8 team tournament? Well, many people who will soon cast their votes for a 96 team field while not even listening to proposals for a football tournament are instituting the equivalent of a 32 team playoff.
With no real need to make an impression on committee members, what incentive is there for top teams to take it to the court against one another? If coasting against a slew of bottom feeders can earn you a 13 seed, why bother making it tougher on yourself. College basketball’s regular season will be devalued to amounts you can only imagine.
At the end, this all boils back to one key issue: Money. Sure, at the same meeting the NCAA will likely accept an $847 million/year contract from CBS and Turner Sports, btu these money hungry fools are out to grab every penny they can. Currently, college basketball tickets are a hot commodity come March. With expansion, they fail to take into account that attendance will fall, as attending a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday site on two days notice is impossible for most. Plus, where’s the intrigue in locals snatching tickets to watch two 13-18 teams battle for the right to get smoked by a #1 seed? It’s long gone, replaced by a greedy committee who have made it known they will easily put a price tag on the integrity of this so called “amateur” sport.