The writing is on the wall. With expansion of the NCAA tournament to 96 teams likely coming as soon as next year, CBSSports.com writers bid a fond farewell to the 64-, 65-team version and consider the impact on college basketball's future.
Expansion will not ruin the NCAA tournament. People who say that are wrong.
There will still be opportunities for upsets and great stories to develop, still be all the madness and more. In fact, a 96-team field will produce two more days of college basketball, and countless more great individual performances, buzzer-beaters and everything else that makes March (and early April) great.
So, again, expansion will not ruin the NCAA tournament. It'll remain terrific.
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Thirteen Big East schools would make the field in certain years, 10 ACC schools, nine Big Ten schools, at which point the regular season becomes more irrelevant than it is already. And those great non-league games you love? Forget about them. The power schools will implement a new strategy where they play buy games, a rivalry game or two, and that's it. Why risk it? Everybody will know 7-9 in the ACC (and perhaps 6-10) will be good enough to make the field. So they'll schedule the type of schedule Virginia Tech played this season, win a bunch of meaningless games in November and December, then try to win every other league game. Do that, and they're in. Which is why doing this is a mistake.
Expansion is happening. You know that, right? If you're rooting against NCAA tournament expansion, make like the average Duke fan and hop onto the bandwagon -- because NCAA tournament expansion is the hot team. It's a winner. All we're waiting for is the official announcement.
Last week the NCAA described the size of a possible expanded field (96) and gave logistical details, but said nothing was official. Which was, if not a lie, a minimization. This is happening. It's coming. Stop your whining and get used to it.
Media critics are saying this is a travesty -- Think about the kids' schooling! -- which is a joke told by self-important blowhards. College basketball, with its regular mid-week plane trips, is a complete bastardization of the school calendar. Let's not get high and mighty now.
Other critics say expansion would insult tradition and add more undeserving teams. I agree with the latter -- it would add more mediocre teams -- but I find the former amusing. Expansion is the tradition of the tournament. It has grown nine times over the years. Here comes No. 10. Don't get too used to it, because No. 11 will be on the horizon eventually.
Me, I don't care either way. The NCAA tournament will still determine a college champion. If it lasts a few extra days, I won't complain. Think of another round of tournament games like a batch of brownies. You gonna turn down seconds?
Remember the first time we met? Me: a shy fat boy new to the business. You: rich, a little stuck up, a legend, but still inviting.
You were my little muffincake; I was, well, absolutely nothing to you. But I dreamed of you. I dreamed of putting my grubby little hands all over your brackets. These were strange dreams. They involved you, me, Billy Packer, some Double-mint gum and chicken grease. Dick Vitale's hairpiece and a Georgetown cheerleader may have also been in the dream but I digress.
Point is, I loved you. I never thought you needed to change a lick. Maybe a little less John Calipari would've been nice and wouldn't have minded seeing Jordan score more than 3.9 points a game. Overall, you were splendid.
You'll be remembered for how you were. Perfect, flawless, despite a scandal here and there. The unwarranted plastic surgery about to be forced upon your delicate soul by the greedy NCAA won't ruin you but it will change you. Your innocence is now officially dead. Dead, I tell you.
Still, be well, my little cinnamon roll, and good luck.
One little request, my pumpkin. On your way out the door can you take Doyel with you?