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BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Expanding the NCAA Tournament

Let’s be honest, the people who run sports (whether college or pro), don’t really care what the “fans” think.  Even in the so-called amateur sports, the bottom line is the bottom line.  Their main goal is to make as much money as possible.  If this wasn’t the case, we would have a college football playoff, a longer NFL season, a shorter NBA playoffs, and an expulsion of the WNBA. 

And now this money-hungry group of old people are showing their true colors with this talk about expansion of the NCAA Tournament, likely to 96-teams.  One website, SportsbyBrooks, says that its a done deal.  I would be willing to bet that if polled, somewhere in the range of 80-90 percent of college basketball fans think this is a bad idea.  In a rare form of unity, it seems that ALL sports writers are in agreement about what a terrible idea this is as well:

Gene Wojciechowski (ESPN): The tournament is perfect the way it is 
Stewart Mandel (CNNSI): Tournament expansion a serious option
Kalani Simpson (Foxsports): Bigger not always better

Now, before we get into why this is such a bad idea, lets first recognize the reasons that the fat cats at the NCAA and TV networks want this expansion and why it works for them:

a. Advertising money: For CBS, I would say the advertising space during the NCAA Tournament is one of their most expensive of year, unless they have the Super Bowl.  And right now, there are 63 spaces for advertising, whereas with expansion, there would now be 95 spaces for advertising.  More advertising spaces=more cash.

b. TV viewership: As much as us fans want to whine about this expansion, and how it will make the tournament less exciting, lets be honest about something: we are still gonna watch.  And we are gonna watch every second we can, because it still has drama and we still will join bracket polls and make bets on the game, and skip out of work to watch.  So, from a network directors perspective, viewership won’t go down, so why not expand. 

c. Job security:The college coaches are fairly split on this idea, but they will all admit that making the NCAA Tournament, especially in the BCS conferences, is how they keep their jobs.  Billy Gillispie was shown the door after one missed tournament in 2 years.  Mike Davis was fired at Indiana just a couple years after making the title game.  It’s fairly easy for John Calipari or Bill Self to defend keeping the tournament the way it is, their teams are basic locks to make it each year.  But, look who the coaches pushing for this expansion are: Jim Boeheim, whose teams has missed the tournament just barely twice this decade.  And Billy Donovan, who also has missed the tournament 2 times in a row, but WOULD NOT HAVE in a 96-team field.      

All of the reasons given above make complete sense from a financial and job security standpoint.  I have no doubt that a network like CBS or ESPN would make more money with a 96-team field over a 65-team field.  But, I wish just once in this current sports atmosphere, money could be pushed aside for the better good of the sport.  In our pro sports, especially with the boom of free agency, we have lost that option.  Players go where the money is, and its much harder to support one team when the players change so often.  And it looks more and more each day that college sports have gone down the money drain as well. 

But, college basketball has it so perfectly right now.  It is not incredibly difficult to make it to the tournament, like it is to make it to BCS in college football.  BUT, its not a cake walk either.  The team you follow has to EARN its right into the tournament with something of a successful season.  In a 96-team field, we are looking at the definite possibility that teams around .500 will make it.  Does a team that wins as much as it loses deserve a shot at the national title?  I think not.  

Another legitimate question to ask is: how exactly is this tournament setup?  Does the #1 seed play the #96 seed?  How many byes do the top teams get?  Will the mid-majors be allotted a certain number of bids?  How in the hell will we fit 96 teams on our brackets for the bracket poll at work?  You must read this great article from Bleacher Report, where the writer attempts to bracket the new 96-team field several different ways, and none of them turn out so great.

My hope is the fan and media outrage from this proposed expansion will push these network execs and NCAA reps to reconsider this change.  It’s unlikely, because money talks over a fans voice.  I worry that we will lose the cinderella teams, who will be buried in a first round game against a lower tier Pac-10 school, not given their chance at the big boys.  I worry the regular season will become pointless, because once you reach 15 wins, you’re sure to get in the tournament.  But most of all, I worry that what I consider the greatest 3 weeks of the sports year will be downgraded and minimized all for the sake of some added cash. 

Article written by Bryan the Intern

65 responses to “BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Expanding the NCAA Tournament”

  1. Prince44

    Doyel wrote a convincing column in favor of the expansion. It should have been included in your links to be fair. Anyways, in the spirit of fairness I’ll post it here.;pageContainer

  2. true blue

    Im with you if they do this ill just watch uk games and wait till march for the rest.I mean everyone says the regular season in college basketball is boring imagine what itll be like if expand it?Who in the world would care about the bubble games then?

  3. TOMPAV83

    You can count me among the people who thinks expanding the field is retarded. I agree with the whole job security thing but Jim Boeheim and Billy D probably both still have some job security stored up.

  4. scratchfever

    2–“everyone says the regular season in college basketball is boring”?? when did this happen?gbb

  5. Waterview1

    Can’t have a football playoff because of the infringement on academics but a 96 team basketball playoff is okay? They got some splainin’ to to here.

  6. payne

    There is a simple argument against expansion. Except for the Ivy schools, EVERY TEAM is already in the tournament! If you win your conference tourney you will be in the field of 65. End of discussion.

  7. El gato de San Antonio

    anyone know where to watch yesterdays game online?

  8. Careless Bear

    How about we keep the tournament at least somewhat sacred instead of letting just anyone in. All you have to do is have a decent season to get in, let the rest of em duke it out in the NIT.

  9. Indycatfan

    5 I have to agree with you, the NCAA will not or cannot instill a playoff system in college Football, yet they will continualy try to tweek with the basketball side of the sports spectrum……Double standard? I think so!

  10. edgehoops

    A bad idea all around. The tournament was fine at 64, then we added a play-in game and made it 65. That made little to no sense, but as far as expanding the tournament… it would give less meaning to the regular season and drown out the post-season games (too many). You already have your conference tourney that establishes who will make it from each league. Furthermore, any team rated 50 or above has a -1% chance of winning the tournment. Leave it be.

  11. JMBlue

    There was a poll on this morning about expansion. I think it is about 78% against expanding.

  12. VIIChamps

    IT’s kinda amazing the fanaticism associated with college athletics and an individual’s loyalty to one’s team. Otherwise, there is no way that people would just accept the blatant eff you the NCAA is giving to fans. They obviously don’t give an eff what the fans, or anyone else thinks. They’re gonna do what makes them them biggest buck in the name of higher education.

  13. cat fan in IL

    remember what grandpa said, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it!” Thanks Grandpa

  14. Flamboyant Eric Embry

    Gillispie is a TERRIBLE example to use in the context you did. Missing the tourney had ZERO to do with him losing his job.

  15. blueblue

    #8 brought up something that made me think about an argument against this expansion talk that I haven’t thought or heard anywhere else. The NIT. What about the NIT? If the big dance has 96 teams, then does that mean the NIT will have to invite teams with below .500 records?? I think ESPN carries NIT games. Will ESPN fight to save the integrity of it’s marketable product??

  16. blueblue

    For anybody looking for a printable SEC tourney bracket, be very careful!! I did a google search for SEC basketball tourney 2010 and damn near caught a virus on my laptop!! My antivirus went haywire, and if I had been dumb enough to click on one popped up box, my hard drive would have crashed!!

  17. AlanHangover

    only way I see this as a good idea, is if they eliminate the conf tournaments. Otherwise, its just too many games…look how playing so many games ruins the NBA for fans. No one cares about 95% of the regular season games. Almost all teams make playoffs, makes it even morse. The 65 team tourney works well as it is; don’t see any advantage to expansion except the NCAA thinks they will make more money that way. That being the case, expansion is inevitable…likely it won’t stop at 96 teams either…

  18. sangaman

    My biggest problem with expanding to 96 teams is that it dilutes the regular season. As it is now, there are dozens if not hundreds of regular season games with very real bubble implications every season leading up to the tournament. Those games frequently feature major programs with major fan bases, UConn/Florida etc… The bubble teams are frequently talented despite their bubble status, making the games interesting to watch. After the change, all these big schools and talented teams will be making the tournament much more easily. The new bubble teams will be much less exciting and more obscure. There’s a difference between watching Florida State and Wake Forest play for their tournament lives in the regular season and Wofford and Charleston do the same.

  19. wow

    The setup would be like this- if you are a top 8 seed now or better, you would get a first week/game bye. The bottom 8 seeds now and the additional 32 teams would play an extra game to get to the current 64 team field. That is how you set it up.

    I still hate it.

  20. afidler

    While I agree that a 96 team field is not good for the sport, what makes the 64 so special? After all it’s been upgraded several times in the last 20 or so years, and each time it was heralded as a bad move. Is it that 64 is that magical number for college basketball today? Is it the fear of change?

  21. Brink

    Maybe we should just have a 10 game regular season then have a 330 (or all of D1) Tourney to declare a champion. That is about as absurd as this expansion.

  22. cat fan in IL

    No one has mentioned the “student athletes.” They have already played 30+ games in the regular season and 4-6 games in a conference tourney. How many more days does the NCAA want to put them on the road and take them out of class? Get it right NCAA and leave it alone!

  23. Diller

    Well done, BTI. Surprising as it may be, this was well thought out and clear. Seems like a better vehicle for your BS than the picks to click!

  24. soup

    Orton’s nickname?

    I say Homer.

  25. catfansice1970

    I’m against expanding the tourney but if i was going to argue the otherside i would say that it would benefit the teams that had a great regular season and won their conference outright, but then didn’t win their tourney. Their are conferences where teams go 15 – 1 in conference and are clearly the best team in that conference but then slip up in their tourney. I do think that is unfair but expansion might not be the solution. Maybe do away with the conference tourneys and award the regular season champion an automatic bid.

  26. Syrin

    But we CAN’T have a football play off because the students will miss too much class!! Remember ?!?!?!

    What a bunch of jag offs. I hope no one watches in protest.

  27. Mike

    Is Obama behind this? You know…with 80-90% not wanting it!

  28. Bigbluecalizone

    For those coaches making the argument for expansion thinking it would add to their job security because they are more likely to get in, that’s stupid. As the landscape changes,thus does expectations. All this would do is reward medioraty. It’s about money, plain and simple. Anyone that says different is lying. Bottom line.

  29. Syrin

    There is another way this hurts the regular season. No longer will non-conference games be against quality competition. If all you have to do to make the tourney is to win 15 games, then playing as many cupcaskes as possible becomes much more appealing sincxe strength of schedule becomes cirtually meaningless.

  30. Forthesakeofeducation

    Are we DEFINITELY in the East bracket, or does the Cuse loss, and our new ranking place us in a higher #1 seed for a better bracket?

  31. actually

    sweet, i was wondering when this would turn to politics !

  32. SavannahCat

    Expanding to 96 teams is a power grab by the big conferences, not a way to get a 28-5 team from the Big South dancing. The first round will knock out most of the little guys and put the big conferences in the field of 64. So now instead of a 3-14 upset of say; ETSU over W. Virgina, you could have ETSU defeated in the round of 96 by Miss State and then if MSU beats WVa in the 3-14, not a real surprise and not as exiting. 96 is the basketball version of the BCS because the BCS conf. will get more teams and more $$, leaving the little guys out. I bet that the first round would somehow involve a home game instead of a neutral site. MORE $$. I’m a capitalist, but for a fair playing field.

  33. Syrin

    catsfansince1970 – that IS fair. Conferences had the option to decie whether or not to let the conference tourney winner or the regular season champ get the automatic invite. Most chose the tournament for the following reason. If the regualr season champ loses in the tourney, then some other team in the conference gets the automatic invite, then the hope would be the regualr season champ would get an at large thereby getting 2 teams in the tourney instead of one. We know that that rarely happens, but that was the logic. What that has done has essentially made those mid major conferences’ regualr seasons meaningless. However, this was THEIR decision, good or bad.

  34. Laker Cat 18

    I hate the idea of an increased number of teams in the NCAA tournament. It takes the passion and fire out of some of the bubble teams during their conference tournaments I think. It knocks out the overall value of the tournament. Not as much of a challenge with a larger field as there is with the current format.

  35. SavannahCat

    I’d be for it if all conference champs got a first round bye.

  36. Syrin

    People are also ignoring the obvious. Upsets are less likely to happen because those low seeds will not be nearly as fresh as the higher seeds. Again, they are going to ruin what made March Madness special.

  37. catfansice1970

    # 29 – the ” 80 – 90% that don’t want health care for all. Is that the ones u r referring to? I wouldn’t compare those dumbasses to expansion. I would compare them to someone not wanting a tourney at all.

  38. catfansice1970

    # 35 – I am against expansion, but i’m just saying that in a one bid league they should probably not have a conference tourney. I would say u would want your best team representing your conference. George Mason didn’t win their tourney and was the last at large team in. If they don’t get in then it would have changed the tourney that year all together.

  39. denimbluewasawesome

    There will still be bubble games. They’d be something like: Indiana State (12-17) vs Creighton (14-14) Arizona (14-14) vs California (13-17) or Georgia (13-15) vs Florida (12-17)

    Yeah expansion is going to suck

  40. Reality

    Gillespie wasn’t fired for missing the tournament genius…it was because of everything else.

  41. phillbilly

    If they are going to expand, why not 97 teams? I want a play in game.

  42. KingCarnita

    If you are willing to bet 80% – 90% of fans polled would be against expansion why don’t you use that awesome poll feature on the right hand side of the home page. I would be willing to bet that it is probably more toward the middle.

  43. MIDDAY

    If they do this, 1 & 2 seeds should get buys until ther round of 64.

  44. MIDDAY

    which isn’t possible with 96 teams, but anyway.

  45. catfansice1970

    I r going to expand i think everyone should have to win the same amount of games to win a title. The really stupid thing would be some teams have to win 6 games and some 7. They might as well go on and expand to 128.

  46. catfansice1970

    # 45 – the top 8 seeds in each region would get a bye i believe.

  47. JRA

    just like anything else you don’t like or want, don’t buy it, don’t support it! Don’t watch the “new” games, don’t buy the products that support the new format. Americans won’t do this, we don’t want to give up anything. That is the problem, too many people want too much stuff they don’t NEED and really want it free if at all possible, if they can have it yesterday it would be better!

  48. Christopher Johns

    When most sports writers agree on something, it usually means you should go the other way.

    All sports writers agree with the above statement.

  49. N2theBlue

    Oh YEAH! Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps arguing on air about why Lehigh got in and Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t. Gotta set the DVR for that one! Filling out your brackets will now take longer than doing your taxes. YEAH! BRING IT ON! ….turds….

  50. Farouk Assault

    Expanding to 96 teams is like giving participation “trophies” for youth sports. Are you supposed to be rewarded just for showing up? IDTS.

  51. Syrin

    The article saying this is a done deal is over a month old. I’d like to see something more recent, because when word got out about this, the reception was universally negative.

  52. CalifCatFan

    BTI, this is one of the rare times that I agree with you. Tomorrow, I go back to the regular routine of totally disagreeing with you.

  53. Laker Cat 18

    I have a great idea. Top three #1 seeds get automatic slots in the Final 4 with everyone else fighting for the last spot. 3 straight up bye’s til the Final 4. Who’s with me?

  54. I'm Just Sayin

    I am officially against the BTI opinion blog. 96 team tourney no opinion…..

  55. Clandestine

    I’ve never agreed with BTI more. Hip hip horray!

  56. blueblue

    Only one way to look at this 96 team expansion bull shit in a positive light. Teams like Eastern Kentucky and Morehead could dominate the NIT every year!!! It would be awesome to see them with a opportunity to play in Madison Square Garden!!

  57. Schaft

    If a 16 seed can’t beat a 1 seed now, why put in teams that are worse than the 16 seed??? They would have zero chance of progressing thru the tourney.

  58. FlaCat

    Has anyone seen a proposed bracket? I’m guessing the top 32 teams get a first-round bye, and teams 33-96 play a single game (i.e., 33v96, 34v95, etc.) to fill in the spots for round 2. Kind of like 32 play-in games, right?

  59. Clandestine

    More reasons why the tourney field SHOULDN’T be expanded:

    1) The current setup is widely considered the best post season in all of sports. Forking with it runs the risk of screwing that up.
    2) Adding more less qualified teams makes it more like the NBA, which, for people who’ve been following the NBA for years believe it’s become worse, not better.
    3) Adding more teams now, takes us further down the path of adding more teams later, which taken to its inevitable conclusion will kill the whole thing. NCAA is to common sense, what Bud Light is to real beer.
    4) While adding more games may be fun for (some) fans, it increases the likelihood that the best team(s) in the country will have one bad game and we’ll end up with the winner being the best team of March, rather than the best team of the year.
    5) Any decision where $$$ is the primary motive should be beyond suspect.
    6) While I agree that people shouldn’t do things solely for tradition, maintaining a strong tradition does have some value. Kentucky fans know the value of a strong tradition.
    7) No matter what the number of at-large participants, there will always be some that feel slighted. Any argument that tries to say there will be less of those is incorrect, unless of course all the teams are entered which, in all seriousness, is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read on this site.
    8) The post season is a reward to teams that have superior regular seasons. Adding more teams to the tourney makes the regular season less important. The farther you go, the less important it becomes (see NBA).

  60. blueblue

    I can see it now. Your 2012 NIT championship game live from the Garden on ESPN. Morehead St vs. Marshall!! What an interesting game that will be. I’ll bet ESPN has the top ratings stop for that night. And no doubt they sell atleast 2000 to 3000 tickets in New York for the big basketball game!!

  61. thefuture4

    If they want money, then they should expand the tournament and let 256 teams in it, and start the tourney right after christmas. /sarcasm off

  62. thefuture4

    256 team tournament, and it starts after christmas. That’s the best way to make money. No conference play anymore. Ok i’m done being sarcastic now

  63. ukaltheway

    The idea of a 96 team tournament is bad. Get it outta here!