Today’s Spare Change: Say “No” to 96

April 01, 2010 |

This Saturday four teams will play in Indianapolis and by Monday night one team will be the last one standing in the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to cut the nets down and raise the trophy.  65 teams had a shot at the National Championship, but only one will get to have “One Shining Moment” be played in their honor at the end of the college basketball season. 

With the four remaining teams left in the tournament being Michigan State, Butler, Duke, and West Virginia there is some serious star power lacking in what should be the most exciting weekend in college basketball, but with most of the nation’s most recognizable teams and players eliminated from the tournament the intrigue leading into the weekend is definitely less than in years past.

I’m not knocking any of the programs that made the Final 4, especially the two #5 seeds Butler and Michigan State, as both schools have played extremely well to get to Indy, but there’s no luster, there’s no glamour, and there’s just not as much interest with what’s left. 

Some of you may agree with me, some may disagree.  Maybe you think a Duke, West Virginia, Butler, Michigan State Final Four is great (although I doubt you had those four in your office pool), perhaps you’re intrigued to by Butler and will be pulling for the Bulldogs from the Horizon League and that I certainly get.  Who doesn’t like to cheer for the underdog, especially if they were to play the hated Duke Blue Devils?

Upsets happen and the favorites hardly ever win the NCAA Tournament and that’s what makes the Madness of March sports best way to finish a season, so why is the NCAA thinking of tampering with clearly a winning formula?  Over time the NCAA Tournament has grown in size to accommodate more and more teams which throughout the years has made sense to keep up with the growth of better smaller programs, but 64 (okay 65) is the perfect number.  Why mess with success?

The NCAA is looking to expand the field for the tournament to 96.  That’s right, 96 teams in the NCAA Tournament!  I get why the NCAA wants to expand the field…more game…more money.  That’s crystal clear and I get that, but why dilute the product and why mess with March Madness?  If the NCAA is trying to resolve how it finishes one of their seasons, go ahead and fix the BCS.  That’s what needs fixed, not March Madness!

If they were to expand the field to 96 then the regular means absolutely nothing.  No longer will there be “bubble teams” or games that “matter” in February.  The NCAA Tournament then becomes the regular season as it would then take a 7 or 8 game run to win the championship.  And why is the NCAA trying to reward teams that aren’t as competent as their competition?  If a team doesn’t qualify given the current system, then all they’re doing is rewarding mediocrity and once again giving kids a “pass” that didn’t put in the hard work their opponents did. 

The expansion seems inevitable, but I for one think it’s a huge mistake.  I get it that some teams that could have, maybe even should have made the tourny didn’t, but adding 32 more teams is a little ridiculous.  I can see them adding three more teams and making all of the #16 seeds “play in” games or something similar to expand the field to add a few teams, but anything more than eight is a crime to the integrity of the tournament, the product on TV, the lessons to they’re teaching the student athletes, and most importantly the fans.

Do you think the NCAA should expand to 96?  If it’s not 96 then what’s the number?