NCAA Field Was Fine At 64

I’ve spent a good chunk of my free time this week enjoying “Championship Week” coverage of the men’s basketball conference tournaments. Absolutely love this week, and I never get tired of watching the players pile onto each other at center court after securing a bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.

I was watching some of the Big 12 tournament recently, and one graphic in particular caught my eye. It named three Big 12 teams that were on the bubble for NCAA bids. One of the teams went 8-8 in conference play, and the other two went 7-9.

And that brings me to my long-standing feeling of not understanding why the NCAA field was expanded to 68 teams this year. Every year, you hear analysts talk about which teams got snubbed, and most of the time, I don’t feel that particular team got snubbed at all.

I just don’t like those play-in games, which this year will be called the “First Four,” pitting the worst-seeded at-large teams against the worst-seeded automatic bids. To me, the tournament atmosphere is missing big time on those games. And if you’re a player at Saint Peter’s or Northern Colorado, playing in that play-in game isn’t what you had in mind when you dared to dream of making the NCAA tournament. It’s just not the same.

Realistically, how many teams each year having a chance of winning the national championship? And furthermore, does a team that goes .500 in its conference – in any conference – deserve the chance to play for a national title? I would argue it doesn’t. I know the Big East is tough, but I’m sure the field could be pared to 64 and the Big East would still get half of its teams in it.

I think that’s good enough.

4 Responses

  1. Tim

    I don’t mind the 68 team model. I’m an NDSU fan so I’m a small school guy but I wouldn’t mind seeing the lowest seeded 8 teams in the tournament play in the “First 4” rather than the 4 lowest overall seeds and 4 lowest at larges. It gives those small schools more exposure than they would’ve gotten getting drubbed by Kansas or Duke in the 1st round. The First 4 games are the only college basketball games in the country on that Tuesday after Selection Sunday and I think it’s a good thing for those small schools, especially now that there’s 8 teams and 4 games rather than just singling out 2 teams to play one 1 game.

    I think, for the teams involved, the NCAA tournament is more about experiencing the event itself the 1st week than the actual championship itself. The more teams that get a chance to participate in that the better IMO. There were only 306 D1 basketball teams in 1985 when the field expanded to 64. Now there’s 347 so I don’t have a problem with expanding a bit. 80 or 96 is too many but 68 is acceptable.

    However, I do agree with you that these 8-8 power conference teams get too much respect. There are some really good mid-major conferences like the A10, MVC, and CAA who have teams that go 12-4 in conference but miss the big dance due to a 8-8 team from the Big East or Big 12. The criterea for selection panders to the power conferences but it could be worse, we could have a BCS in college basketball.

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