Expansion 96: Brace Yourselves, It’s Coming…

Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2010

Folks, we need to brace ourselves for this.  If you’re at all like us, and we suspect that you are, you’ve been holding out considerable hope that the beauty of this year’s NCAA Tournament — all the great first weekend games, the four regional finals coming down to the wire, the story of small-school Butler making it back home for the Final Four — would somehow sway the powers-that-be to leave things well enough alone.  But we know people like this, and you know people like this.  What we see as perfection, like the Mona Lisa with nary a blemish, they see as an opportunity to sell more Mona Lisa tickets and merchandise.  Profit motive is ALL these people care about, and when that’s your rather obtuse worldview, bigger is always better.  The rest of it be damned.  But as one politician recently put it, it’s coming… whether we like it or not.  Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, one of the voices of reason in previous interviews on expansion, has apparently now landed on the side of the profiteers and money men as well.  He said in an interview with USA Today that he thinks that expansion is ‘probable,’ reflecting a growing sentiment among NCAA college presidents that this is a good idea.  The NCAA Board of Directors will meet in late April and the topic is on the agenda in light of the decision to opt out of its current television contract with CBS and entertain other offers. 

Start Getting Accustomed to This Now

So even though something like 11% of people polled on SportsNation are in favor of expansion (an unscientific poll, but do you know anyone supporting this?), it’s time for all of us to take it up the arse buck up and figure out how we’re going to come to terms with this.  So in the spirit of turning the other cheek, seeing the glass as half-full and other meaningless aphorisms, we’re going to present you with five reasons that Expansion 96 will actually (ahem) make the NCAA Tournament experience better.  Blasphemer, thy name is RTC… we know.  Feel free to skewer us on the spit along with NCAA Executive Director Jim Isch (jisch@ncaa.org) if you like. 

  1. The 2010 NIT Has Been Eminently Watchable.  Getting past the joke that the NIT is the “Not Invited Tournament” and so on, the ‘junior’ tourney’s games this year have been surprisingly competitive and fun to watch as a hoops-fix during the interregnum between NCAA dates.  Since the NCAA is talking about simply synthesizing the NIT into the NCAA Tournament, the 32 NIT teams would (mostly) populate the bottom third of the new legal-paper sized bracket that everyone would carry around with them.  And although very few hoops fans other than those of the NIT teams bother to follow the games, the quality of play has improved over the past several years and it would probably make more sense to have everyone in college basketball focused on the same national postseason tournament every year rather than split between two (we’re not keen on including the CBI/CIT yet).
  2. The First Weekend Becomes the First Week.  Under the new format of 96 teams, we presume that the games would begin on Tuesday following Selection Sunday and run for six consecutive days through the following Sunday.  It would break out like this: Tuesday (16 games), Wednesday (16 games), Thursday (16 games), Friday (16 games), Saturday (8 games), Sunday (8 games).  The basketball bonanza of the opening weekend has just become the opening week, so go ahead and take off the entire thing from work.  Now, you may say along with everyone else that you’re really not interested in watching a Texas Tech-Seton Hall game because it represents two bad teams where somebody has to win, but are you telling us that you wouldn’t be intrigued by a UNC-William & Mary first round matchup?  Or UConn-Northeastern?  We’d by lying if we said that those games weren’t interesting to us, and you would be too. 
  3. The Regular Season Still Matters.  For the old-timers who lament the days when winning the regular season meant something, expansion will help make good on that issue.  No longer will teams from the smaller conferences put together great seasons only to be left out in the cold on Selection Sunday because they had a bad day in the conference tournament.  The new Tourney would include all tournament and regular season champions plus the at-larges, rewarding nearly every team that had a really good season. 
  4. The Bye is a Huge Incentive For At-Large Teams.  Presumably the best 32 teams as determined by the Selection Committee would get the first round bye to the Thursday/Friday games.  Staying above that line will be a HUGE incentive for those schools.  The possibility of winning three games in five days against quality opponents to advance to the Sweet Sixteen is far lower than it is to win two games in three days.  This will help prevent teams who are safely in the NCAA Tournament from not giving their all (“coasting”) during the end of the season and/or their conference tournament because of the possibility of slipping below a #8 seed.  And those teams who are in the #5-#12 range during the last month of the year will have considerably more to play for every night out.
  5. Potentially Better Storylines.  We all love when a Cinderella breaks through to the Sweet Sixteen.  Consider the possibility of a team rated in the bottom 32 teams winning its first game against a marginally higher-seeded opponent and then follows it up with a win against a bye team.  The third game of the week for that team will be fraught with excitement as they’ll then be facing in all likelihood a top-16 team for the right to move into the second weekend.  There will be more time to get to know these Cinderellas and support them as the Tournament builds to its opening weekend crescendo.  Additionally, there will be a greater likelihood of a #1 seed losing its first game.  The really bad small conference teams will lose in the opening round, leaving all four #1 seeds to play a marginally better team with a win already under its belt.  Rather than the MEAC team du jour, it could potentially be a dangerous BCS team like Northwestern or St. John’s this year. 
rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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15 responses to “Expansion 96: Brace Yourselves, It’s Coming…”

  1. GBBound says:

    For all the talk about the importance of why we can’t have a football playoff because students will be missing school, a team could potentially play 8 games in a little over a week. For example, let’s take the 10th place team from the Big East, who might miss the current iteration of the tournament:
    They would play in the first round of the Big East Tournament ona Wednesday and win
    They would play in the second round of the Big East Tournament on a Thursday and win
    They would play in the Quarterfinals on a Friday and win
    They would play in the Semifinals on Saturday and win
    They would play in the Finals on Sunday and lose.

    They would likely make the new iteration of the tournament as an at-large and play on Tuesday and win
    They would then play the following Thursday and win
    They would then play the following Saturday.

    8 games in 11 days….is that really good for basketball?

  2. Free says:

    Long time… first time…

    While I agree that expansion would be all around shitty, your 2nd point on the week-long basketball-kake is actually fairly interesting.

    I think it would also be interesting if you kept the games as they are now, we could get down to 32 on the first weekend. Elite 8 on the following. And then the final weekend would be the ultimate conference tourney/high school tourney style… Sat, Sun., Mon. for all the marbles.

    With some of the sting taken out of the first two days of the tourney with NIT-level games, that final weekend could replace it as the ultimate sports weekend. Maybe?

  3. rtmsf says:

    Yeah, BE Tourney ends on a Saturday night, but point is still salient.

  4. JC says:

    1. Agree w/ GGB regarding the football missing class argument.

    2. What makes you think the bracket would be as shown above? I see each region as follows:
    23v24 – 1
    9v10 – 8
    15v16 – 5
    17v18 – 4
    13v14 – 6
    19v20 – 3
    11v12 – 7
    21v22 – 2

    Because money is apparently the main reason for expansion, this layout makes the most $ sense to me.

  5. Please god… no no no no no.

  6. “Hey, don’t you know it’s a waste of your day / caught up in endless solutions” — A Life of Illusion, Joe Walsh

    This quote basically sums up my opinion on proposed expansion of the NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament. It seems likely that the tournament will expand from 65 to 96 teams. let me count the ways I hate this idea.

    The tournament already allows for the inclusion of 34 at-large teams, it usually incorporates the top 40-45 teams would you account for conference tournament champions. There already is a large enough avenue for teams to get in. If they can’t avail themselves of these opportunities I’m sure they can find a mirror to yell at. Currently the top 10% get into the tournament. This tournament should be about the best teams and conference champions. It should not be simply an equivalent of a participation badge for the above-mediocre. We don’t need to add the Not Invited Tournament (known in an alternate universe as the NIT) to the NCAA tournament.

    But, of course the only purpose of an expansion is an expansion of revenue stream. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar or a delusional. The NCAA assumes that more games equals more money. They’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean an expansion of the tournament will make the tournament better. It’s kind of like adding ice to a drink. At first, it seems like a good idea because it makes the drink cold. However, after a while all it does is water it down.

    It’s kind of hilarious to me that the latest news regarding tournament expansion comes from a USA Today interview with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney. This from a man who is against a playoff in big-time college football. What a ridiculous dichotomy.

    If the tournament does expand, here is what should happen. Coaches like Seth Greenberg Virginia Tech who always try to electioneer their bubble teams into the tournament should get a little karma. All of these coaches who basically push for expansion deserve to have terrible seasons if there is expansion. If there is any karma in the world, next year Virginia Tech will not be good enough to get in even to an expanded 96 team field. It may sound harsh, but if there is to be expansion, teams like Virginia Tech deserve to go 11-19-ish and have their coaches fired. If you’re going to ruin it, at least make it a little fun.

    Here is a line Nancy Reagan and Dylan Thomas can get behind. Just Say No to an expanded tournament, and Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light that is the sanity of the current format.

    Here’s a slogan: 65+0 Or Fight!

  7. Andrew says:

    I just don’t think I can come to terms with this at all. I am in serious denial, and like to believe that if this ever comes to fruition that I simply won’t watch the opening round of the tournament (much like I don’t watch the current “play-in” game).

    And frankly, after watching basketball from morning to night on just the Thursday and Friday of the current opening round, I’m friggin’ exhausted. Watching basketball all day for four straight days would have me burned out by the time the Saturday/Sunday games come around, not to mention the fact that it would probably get me divorced… (okay honey, I know I haven’t seen you in like two weeks as it is what with the Championship weeks going down, but we sure had a nice Monday together, huh? Okay, now see you next Monday… Or maybe I can schedule an hour or two of quality time for Sunday evening, although I will likely be in a state of basketball-induced zombification at that point)…

  8. JR says:

    I am amazed how well you spun this article considering not too long ago you guys bashed the thought of expansion and were the first to point out that the early round games would be crap.

    You don’t have to like it just because it is inevitable. You can still argue how it is a bad idea (which it is).

  9. rtmsf says:

    JC – I guess they could do it that way, but the tourneys with bye situations I’ve typically seen are such that the #16 would play the #1 in the next round. And so forth.

    NoMoreSpin – hilarious. Keep it coming…

    Andrew – Now don’t you understand that if Bonnie comes home and finds a 96-team NCAA Tourney in her house, I’m gonna get divorced. No marriage counselor, no trial separation — fuckin’ divorced. And I don’t wanna get fuckin’ divorced. The last time me an’ Bonnie talked about this shit was gonna be the last time me an’ Bonnie talked about this shit. Now I wanna watch the games, I really do. But I ain’t gonna lose my wife doin’ it.

    JR – don’t get me wrong, I’m still 100% against it. But there comes a time when you have to realize that it doesn’t matter what you think, and shit’s gonna get done regardless. It doesn’t mean that I like it, but it does mean that I can find some silver linings in it. And I’m preparing myself now.

  10. Mark P says:

    Stupid stupid stupid stupid. What are the chances of a cindarella making to the Sweet Sixteen? Much less Elite Eight, Final Four, etc…. Not high. Not high.

    It’s crap like this that makes me want to become Marxist.

  11. I just hope we don’t go down the path of the UK, where the Labour Party recently put out a series of proposals on reforming soccer in that country. adding the government makes it more murky and chaotic. I’d love to see the expansion stop, but I don’t want that to be in the form of government intervention. Would be an overreach, but that’s just my Federalist speaking.

  12. “Wild Wild Wild” by the utterly quotable Talking Heads currently playing in my head

  13. THager says:

    I will never ever ever give in to the idea that this will happen and that this could ever be a good thing. I quit basketball the day this happens.

  14. rtmsf says:

    You’ll be back.

  15. golfitup says:

    I am legitimately angry right now. Nothing like messing up the best tournament in American sport.

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