Blog Entry

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

Posted on: April 1, 2010 11:02 pm


The NCAA is dead set on ruining the greatest sporting event currently played in this country.  No matter how much moaning, griping or throwing up of hands we do, the decision has been made and the pristine mountains of March Madness are about to be strip-mined for the almighty dollar.  The press conference called by the NCAA on Thursday was simply an attempt to grease the skids on the inevitable inclusion of 32 mediocre to bad teams into next year’s edition of the Big Dance.  Yes, the NCAA claimed that “no decision has been made” and that they are “looking at all options”, but those are simply public faces to the actual situation which is “the tournament is expanding, deal with it.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that this is simply an NCAA money grab and is being done not for the students’ benefit or the fans’ interest, but rather for dollars into the NCAA institutions’ coffers.  That rationale alone however, does not in and of itself make the decision a bad one.  When the  NCAA expanded from 32 to 48 and 48 to 64, (I will leave out the absurd move to 65), both decisions were driven by money, not the quality of the product.  Yet luckily for the fans, the Tournament as a whole benefitted.  With the increase of Division I teams in college basketball and the proliferation of conferences, the new combination of automatic qualifies and at-large bids produced a great combination of teams with a real chance for a national championship and the spunky dreamers hoping for their one shot at glory.  In short, it went from a good to a great event.

However this move to 96, while still based on the same “greed is good” mentality, will have the side effect of truly doing harm to the great event.  Zach McCrite, a radio host friend of mine, took the time a few weeks ago to bracket out what the 2010 96-team NCAA Tournament might have looked like.  Take a look at it for a second and then come back.   Horrifying isn’t it?  Look at some of the teams added to the field:


Texas  Tech


St Johns

NC State




There are of course others.  But look at some of those names.  Was there ever a moment in which you thought Sidney Lowe’s group of underachieving Wolfpack, Norm “My team is so bad I got fired” Roberts’ St John’s team or the “Our best coaches left long ago” Tulsa bunch needed to be part of the festivities.  I mean if you watched Minnesota or UTEP’s performance, it is hard to make the case that Texas Tech would have somehow added anything but mind-numbingly bad basketball to the event.  And if Northwestern was in, well Mike Wilbon’s smugness alone would be enough to ruin the festivities.

But its not just the fact that the event wont be bettered by the 32 extra teams, it is the fact that it will actually be worsened.  The first round of the NCAA Tournament is special.  There are great David vs Goliath matchups between small conference champions and major program powers, traditional toss-up games between 8-9 seeds and the inevitable 5 vs 12 or 4 vs 13 upset.  Every slot of games has excitement and all the teams get to take the stage.

Now look at the 96 team event.  The top 32 teams all get byes.  That means when the tournament starts, no Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, Ohio State, etc.  Instead take just one region (the Midwest) this year and here are the opening round matchups in 2010:

Kent State vs South Florida

Northern Iowa vs Winthrop

New Mexico State vs Stony Brook

Illinois vs Troy

San Diego State vs UC Santa Barbara

Arizona State vs Weber State

Georgia Tech vs Lehigh

Wichita State vs Texas Tech


LOOK AT THAT!  Is even one of those games mildly entertaining?  Can you imagine taking time off work, with your kids or even mowing your lawn, to watch any of them?  That lineup would take what I consider to be two of the best days in sports, and turn them into a snooze factory that even Greg Anthony and Seth Davis cannot watch. Unless the NCAA’s goal is trying to boost the nation’s collective work output for those two days, nothing good can come of that.


And it actually gets worse than that.  The 96 team tournament will actually make it harder for the best teams to win it all.  Take the situation for the #1 seeds.  For the past 20 years, being a #1 seed has mattered.  It gave you a matchup with a #16 seed and essentially a free pass to round 2 for your hard work during the regular season.  What happens with a 96 team tournament? Well initially, there is no benefit in the first round, because the top 32 teams get a bye, meaning that Texas gets the same reward for its dismal regular season as Kansas.  Then when a game does actually have to be played, a #1 seed gets a different type of #16 seed.  In fact, in our mock 2010 bracket, Syracuse would open the tournament with North Carolina and Duke would play Connecticut.  There you go Jim Boeheim, congrats on that top seed and instead of Vermont to start the Tournament, enjoy North Carolina’s 8 McDonalds All Americans as your first-round reward.  If a team that was as consistently awful as UNC’s merry bunch of underachievers can even make the Tournament, much less have a shot at a #1 seed in Round One, for teams in major conferences the regular season becomes as long, tedious and worthless as an “Around the Horn” marathon.


Of course the NCAA does not care about any of this.  They are much more concerned with making the case that a football playoff will not work because of “missed class”, while simultaneously setting up a system for basketball in which teams are forced to miss 7-10 days of class in a row under the new set-up.  Pointing out the hypocrisy is important, but ultimately irrelevant.  In the battle of money vs academics, academics will lose every time.


 But my concern is even greater than a missed sociology class.  The NCAA Tournament is the best sporting event in America and its first two days can’t be topped for continuous excitement by any other event.  The NCAA is seeking to take away the beauty of Robert Morris taking Villanova to the wall, Ohio shocking Georgetown or Old Dominion over Notre Dame and replace it with matchups in mediocrity such as Mississippi State vs Quinniapac, Dayton vs Northeastern and Ole Miss vs Illinois State.  Can’t-miss television becomes as forgettable as the play-in game, bracket pools become unruly and unmanageable and the event as a whole takes a severe hit.  Maybe the NCAA believes that the extra revenue makes it all worth it and other problems will fade into the woodwork.  Possibly.  But what is much more likely is that the change to 96 teams dilutes the product to such a degree that the NCAA in the process of tinkering with the one truly valuable and nearly perfect commodity college basketball has, the NCAA destroys what makes it great. 

Category: NCAAB

Since: Mar 21, 2008
Posted on: April 4, 2010 2:56 am

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

I hate to say this, but I am for the 96 team format.  But, I have some conditions.

1) Auto byes to ALL regular season and post season conf tourney winners.  This number will vary from 62 possible to 31.

2) All post season conference tourney winners can be seeded no lower than an 8; they then get one Bye round.

3) No reseeding of teams at all.

4)  Current Playin day is Tuesday still and it is 32 games.  Losers create the NIT bracket.

5) All considerations for keeping the current time period in place, and I don't see any reason to change the dates at all.  

Since: Sep 26, 2006
Posted on: April 4, 2010 1:57 am

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

i agree that 96 teams is too much. UNC could be in having a 50% record and other teams in the "big 6" conferences with poor conference records. i can understand maybe 8 teams, especially teams from the mid-major conferences in which the regular season champion isn't given an at-large bid after not winning the conference tournament, but 32 more teams is too much. there could be some weak 2nd round matchups. i'm not sure how the seeding would be but i guess the #9 seed faces the #24 seed, so if the #24 seed wins, i guess that team would face the #8 seed, while the #1 seed faces the #16/17 winner, so in some instances, the #1 seed could face the tougher team. teams from the big six who are in the middle to below average in their conference would end up likely grabbing most of those 12-18 slots even though they've had 12 or more losses, while conference champions in mid-majors would be seeded even lower

Since: Nov 10, 2006
Posted on: April 3, 2010 10:09 pm

The worst part of 96 teams is

You can forget the 2 weeks of tournements for each conference, as they no longer matter. Just crown the season winner, the "automatic qualifier" and then the next 75% of the teams get in anyway. Why should conf. like the big east scrap for 4 days, and wear each other out, only to get at least 12 of the 16 in anyway. This year Syracuse, and Nova still got 1 and 2 seeds anyway. 96 teams? Show me a printed bracket...I am so furious! Oh.. I know, this takes the heat of of the NCAA coming up w/ a playoff for football. Let me see, hoops, 65 team playoff is great, so expand it to 96. Football? 2 is enough, why expand it? What am I missing???

Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: April 3, 2010 7:00 pm

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

Hey Matt, have you heard of the NCAA Bowl Championship series? In that NCAA money grab, we have (Gosh, with all the excitement, I can't rememeber how many bowl games to decide the National Chamionship) something like 31 Bowl Games. Twenty five of those games arent worth watching and nobody does. Five are just lip service. And the mythical National Championship, as picked by the computer geeks, finally gets played a week too late. Your article was a perfect what not to do to fix what ain't broke in NCAA college basketball. But it's the exact same argument to fix what's really screwed up about NCAA football.

Since: Nov 29, 2006
Posted on: April 3, 2010 5:31 pm

The Tournament Was Ruined When Expanded From 32

Sorry Matt. The NCAA tournament is not great. It used to be. Long before you were old enough to see it, it was the greatest. It featured the actual thirty two best teams. There were no sisters of the poor and nonsensical #1 vs. #64 matchups in prime time. Going to the NCAA Tourney used to mean something. It was the cream of the cream. The Top 25, plus the next seven. It was magical. The worst matchup possible was #1 vs. #32. Every game was great. There were no "gimme" first round games. You like upsets? Under the thirty two team format, there were plenty of upsets. All the teams were capable of beating one another. Then the tourney was ruined. Expanding the tournament only made it easier for the top seeds to glide through. With each expansion, it becomes easier for the politics of seeding to rear it's ugly head. The seeding committee can shape the tournament to produce desired results. Seed numbers mean nothing. It's all about matchups, and arranging "certain" teams in "certain" regions against each other. Oh it's political. It's definitely political. It's about network ratings. Expansion rewarded teams that had no business even being on a floor with the top thirty two, while crushing the dreams of schools that were ranked 33rd-50th. The team ranked 34-50th were sent to the NIT, and they were replaced by teams not even in the top 100. There is something inherently wrong with a tournament, when every single year the team that wins the NIT, is better than half of the NCAA field. You are correct about one thing. Expansion to ninety six will only be worse. The only good thing is that the sisters of the poor can fight among themselves in the first round for the privilege of getting beat to death by the real teams. Bob Huggins suggestion that basketball be divided into divisions like football is brilliant, and correct. That way, the smaller schools could actually play in a post season tournament whereby they had a chance to play more than one game. Number sixteen seeds are 0-for life in the NCAA. They have ZERO chance of winning a game. This isn't "glory" for these tiny schools, it's humiliation. Leave the Marxism out of sports. Stop trying to redistribute the wealth. Give the fans the best teams...period. No also rans. No Idaho Poly Tech.

Since: Apr 3, 2010
Posted on: April 3, 2010 4:29 pm

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

All it takes to solve most of your issues is creative seeding. The four #1 seeds would play the four winners of games featuring seeds 89-96, and so on until the 8 seeds meet the four winners of seeds #33-40.  That way you guaranteed the same basic structure once you reach the round of 64.

Since: Apr 10, 2007
Posted on: April 3, 2010 4:25 pm

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

ruining the greatest sporting event currently played in this country .  Sorry. As long as the Super Bowl is played in this country it takes that title. NFL playoffs are a close second. Clearly neither of you watch the WNBA.

Since: Oct 3, 2007
Posted on: April 3, 2010 3:34 pm

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

The bubble would burst. We would lose 'on the bubble' from the college b-ball lexicon and that would be ashame because it adds yet another [albeit subjective] exciting element to the tourney ..

Ironically, this year shows that even 64 teams is a 'talent' stretch as 'bubble teams' proved their unworthiness - geez, VaTech, ArizSt, & the Illini couldn't even win home games in the early rounds of the NIT ..

As a 'true' college bball fan I [still] find the NIT entertaining in its own right - certainly the field from top to bottom is more evenly matched. And congrats to Dayton for a nice run. The NIT winner often is a team on the rise for next year and gains valuable confidence heading into next year. It is also an opportunity for an outgoing senior to get a trophy and nice memory instead of a [likely] one and done in the [96 team] NCAA 'experience'.

As far as those comparing the NCAA tourney to the Super Bowl/ NFL Playoffs or World Series/ MLB Playoffs, you are missing the boat. The NCAA tourney is the ONLY sporting event [other than the Olympics] which brings the nation together in interest; non-sporting fans as well. This not only gives 'small town America' an opportunity to enjoy, but on any given year may have a participant. There is a 3 week love affair with the NCAA tourney where emotions run the gamut and 'Cinderellas' are uncovered. The SB & WS are multi-million dollar professional athletes who have culminated a good season, have had to have had a good season to get there; and whose fans are very 'sport specific' .. and whose interest dramatically wanes as their cities don't make or are eliminated from the playoffs. The SB itself is an exception - tho it is a 'happening' (chance to party, reason to actually pay attention to commercials, & chance to rekindle a few memories as some rock act is temporarily resurrected) ... not something where the majority of the viewing audience has a rooting interest (unless you have a few bucks on the game)

Since: Sep 17, 2006
Posted on: April 3, 2010 3:01 pm

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

Why does it have to be set up where 64 teams are playing in the first round?  Why not have the last 32 teams playing a play in game to get the pleasure of playing against a 1 - 4 seed?  The other seeds would be left as is with 5 playing 12 etc.  A 1 seed would play the winner of the 17 vs 24; 2 seed would play winner of 18 -23; etc.

Since: Dec 1, 2008
Posted on: April 3, 2010 2:01 pm

96 Teams Would Ruin the Joy of the Tournament

There has been one really good game in this tournament so far: Xavier vs. Kansas State.

Some others have been OK, but overall this tournament has been a snooze-fest.  Adding 32 more teams, all of which are much weaker than the top teams, is unlikely to improve the ratio of good games to bad.

And based on all the empty seats I saw at all the venues, there isn't a huge demand out there for more post-season basketball.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or