Is the NCAA basketball tournament big enough for you? Could you envision it larger, with even more basketball? I’m a bit torn on the matter myself, but clearly it’s something we need to be paying attention to, because major-conference commissioners are talking about it.
And if those guys are in agreement on something, there’s a serious chance of that something happening. ACC commish Jim Phillips voiced his support for postseason tournament expansion last week, not just in basketball, but in baseball and potentially other sports as well. The SEC’s Greg Sankey said he’s open to expanding the basketball tournament, and the Big Ten’s Kevin Warren is as well.
There are a lot of particulars to iron out, but it’s plain enough where the wind is blowing here.
Other proponents of tournament expansion have pointed out that the field has consistently expanded throughout its history, which is of course true. From its humble beginnings as an eight-team field of pasty 6’3 white guys who can’t make free throws, to the famous 1974 ACC tournament title game that was an impetus for change, to the move to 64 in the 1980s, addition has been steady.
Ken Pomeroy noted this week that that 64-team field accounted for around 23% of D-I teams at the time, while a similarly-proportioned field today would include 82 teams.
But what’s the right number, if we’re doing this? Is it simply doubling the field? Adding 32? (Pomeroy likes an 80-team concept.) I do like the idea of having a tournament large enough to allow all regular season conference champions to receive automatic berths, as this would be good for mid-majors and make sure we get good teams that had a bad weekend into the event.
We have good mid-major teams getting snubbed because they were unable to put together good non-conference schedules on account of people being afraid to play them, and adding more bids would help there. I’m all for that. There’s a sweet spot in here somewhere that makes the tournament a little more just, and a little bit better, without rendering the regular season meaningless. Getting everybody to agree on what the specifics of that look like is the hard part.