It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. And we'd get used to it, if they did it. So I'm not going to rant and rave and insist the ACC's men's basketball coaches are TRYING TO RUIN THE SPORT WE ALL LOVE! But, in my calmest voice, I will say I do not think their recommendation that the NCAA Tournament should be expanded from 68 teams to 72 teams is a good one. More than anything, it's just a self-serving suggestion designed to create more opportunities for mediocre teams from leagues exactly like theirs.
"The idea of having two First Fours, if you will, maybe geographic," ACC commissioner John Swofford explained to reporters Thursday. "You could have one, maybe in Dayton, and one in the western part of the states. But we will be proposing that."
At which point I hope it's rejected.
There are lots or reasons why I'm against this idea -- first and foremost because it would expand a field that doesn't need expanding, but also because it would annually take four more small-conference auto-bid winners and force them to win their way into the main bracket, meaning two more small-conference auto-bid winners, each year, won't get to enjoy a true NCAA Tournament experience. That stinks. Because I don't care how many times somebody tries to explain that playing in the First Four is the same as playing in the traditional NCAA Tournament, it's not. It's just not. Because, for a small-conference auto-bid winner, playing in the First Four means playing against another small-conference auto-bid winner instead of getting a shot against, say, a Duke or Kansas and forever being able to tell your friends and kids about the time you took your shot against a Duke or Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.
Undeniably, something is lost.
And for what?
Answer: To create more NCAA Tournament opportunities for mediocre Power 5 teams, which is why it's hardly surprising it's the ACC coaches who are prepared to submit this proposal. There are 15 coaches in the ACC, you see, each of whom has a multimillion-dollar contract. They all know the key to securing extensions (and avoiding termination) is to make the NCAA Tournament, at worst, every few years. And, obviously, it's easier to do that if there are more spots available. So, naturally, they want more spots available.
And I don't blame them.
But let's not pretend it's anything other than that.
And, yes, the additional spots would likely go to ACC programs or other Power 5 programs -- and recent history proves it. In the past five seasons, there have been 20 First Four at-large bids. And 12 of the 20 have come from Power 5 leagues. Even though there are 32 men's basketball leagues, 60 percent of the First Four at-large bids in the past five years have come from Power 5 leagues -- and only 40 percent have come from one of the other 27 leagues. So what we're talking about doing here is creating opportunities for the ninth place team in the ACC, the ninth place team in the SEC or the eighth place team in the Big 12.
Do we really need that?
I say ... no.
Pay me a few million dollars and make me the coach at Georgia Tech or Boston College, and I might change my tune. But the sport of college basketball benefits from this in no way. So, as it is, put me down as a hard pass.