A 96-team tourney would be a fiasco
Contraction. Not expansion.
That would have been the appropriate move this past offseason when the NCAA revamped the NCAA tournament.
But, thankfully, the organization that oversees the Big Dance didn’t do what some still maintain is ultimately inevitable: Running this thing out to 96 teams.
It would have been a catastrophe.
You thought there was nearly an uprising after seeing UAB and VCU sneak into the new 68-team field. How about inviting just about everyone with a pulse to the party?
Harvard’s players could have focused solely on their schoolwork and not even bothered having to watch the selection show because the Crimson would have been a virtual lock.
Central Florida, which earned a spot in the CBI, would have gotten into the field — according to our resident bracketologist Jordan Schwartz (who, by the way, correctly predicted 67 of the 68 teams).
Central Florida finished ninth in Conference USA. No, not the Big East — in Conference USA.
The Pac-10, which has had the look and feel of a mid-major conference the past two years, would have sent at least six teams dancing: Arizona, UCLA, Washington, USC, along with Washington State and California.
Yes, a California club that won a grand total of 17 games, was only two games over the .500 mark in the Pac-10 and lost five of its last nine games.
Miami and its 6-10 league mark in a watered-down Atlantic Coast Conference would have been in the field, as well. Yes, the same Miami team that suffered losses to Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Rutgers and Central Florida. It would be been so brutal that Drexel, the fifth-place team in the Colonial Athletic Association, would have gotten into the tourney.
This was not the year to expand as, truth be told, college basketball was down.
Parity truly did reign supreme.
The NCAA has been criticized for the Cam Newton decision, allowing the Ohio State football players to participate in the Sugar Bowl and even failing to hit UConn and Jim Calhoun with a harsher penalty.
But it got this one right.
While you feel for Colorado and Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg today after they were squeezed out of the 68-team field, it would have been difficult to empathize with the 97th and 98th team in the country when they started moaning and groaning that they weren’t included.
Guys like Northwestern’s Bill Carmody or Rhode Island’s Jim Baron.
You may have eventually been talking about teams teetering around the .500 mark.
The Big East could have gotten 13 or 14 teams in the field instead of 11.
Heck, maybe even former Arkansas coach John Pelphrey and ex-Oklahoma head man Jeff Capel could have saved their jobs by simply being mentioned as being on the bubble.
Maybe I’m getting carried away, but if this season taught us anything, it’s that the Big Dance is just fine. Adding a trio didn’t dilute it down all that much, but there’s no need to expand any further.
Don’t mess with what works.
Maybe in a few years, all those coaches looking for job security will have their wish and we’ll add another 28 teams to the equation, but certainly not now.
And, hopefully, not ever.