Consensus reached during annual Conference spring meeting
When Hall of Fame coaches discuss the inner goings on in men’s college basketball, how would you like to be a fly on the wall when a Mike Kryzyzewski mixes things up with a Roy Williams, or a Jim Boeheim sharing some anecdotes alongside Mike Brey? I bet there would be some interesting conversations, to say the least.
One of the points from their spring meeting earlier this week brought up the fact that the lane should be widened to the lane commonly used in the NBA. I agree with them on this particular point, simply because play inside the paint is both ugly and bothersome to watch on any given night. When the referees try to call a charge, is the defender inside the circle and did they get their feet properly set in time? I can recall on one hand how many games were decided because of one blown call, only for the referees to later admit in postgame press conferences that they were wrong after the fact.
However, one major point that I vehemently disagree on is them trying to lobby the NCAA to expand the Tournament again–this time from the current 68 schools to a mind blogging 72 teams.
CBS Sports reporters/podcast hosts Matt Norlander and Garry Parrish went into a over 20 minute long discussion about the positive and mostly negative points regarding the addition of four extra Opening Round games.
The only positive thing could be for the head coaches and the schools themselves receiving a decent share of the NCAA Tournament pool of money for each Tournament win. You would also have a second venue of games to be played around the similar timeframe that we have seen on TruTV since 2011 from Dayton, Ohio. We may not be too far away from possibly having TBS (or dare I say CBS) bring you two games on the first Tuesday and Wednesday from say, the really nice arena on the campus of South Dakota State or Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho–or if the NCAA relaxes some of their championship hosting criteria thanks to the Supreme Court ruling on May 14, maybe just maybe Orleans Arena in Las Vegas could be a host site.
With Expansion Comes Many Pitfalls, The Biggest Of Which Is Quality of Play
We have seen this before in years past in the pro sports, namely in baseball with the 1962 New York Mets, 1977 Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, and 1993 in the Mile High City with the Colorado Rockies. The NBA had Johnny “Red” Kerr lead the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs following their first season playing at the old International Amphitheatre in 1966-1967. In the NFL, the best example had the Miami Dolphins go from cellar dwellers in 1966 to playing in three straight Super Bowls, winning back to back in 1973 and again in 1974.
NHL hockey has been the exception rather than the norm, especially with the Las Vegas Golden Knights reaching the Stanley Cup Finals exactly 50 years when the first major expansion from the Golden Six era saw the St. Louis Blues reach the 1968 Stanley Cup Finals.
My point being is that if the NCAA at some point might be thinking of expanding the tournament, it is going to be so watered down in terms of quality of play that those games may not be worth plucking out a few bucks on your favorite gambling website.
There were two reasons why the Tournament expanded from their popular 64 team model in 2001 and the current expansion to 68 a decade later in 2011.
The 65th team was added due to the creation of the Mountain West Conference in the simple fact that they have a conference postseason tournament.
The other three schools were added basically from the official NCAA seed list. Thankfully, they revised the rules which state that the last eight schools listed get to automatically play at Dayton–four conference champions with the worst records, namely from the SWAC and Sun Belt Conferences, and the four marginal at-large teams from Power 5 Conferences.
If four more schools are added, fans will more than likely see the second place team from the Missouri Valley or the seventh best team from the Big Ten, or the ninth best team from the ACC get an invite. Those schools typically have barely over .500 records overall, a good but not great record during conference play like 10-8 or 9-9, but fail to get past the second round in their own conference tournaments. The RPI’s usually end up being between 70 and 95, give or take a few slots.
Bottom line, those teams should go to the NIT, CIT, CBI, or whatever named tournament is out there for marginal teams that are 100 and below in the NCAA’s general pecking order.
I have heard countless stories from many coaches that had to play the Opening Round games in Dayton. They came away unimpressed by the facilities and the lack of restaurant options within walking distance of Dayton Arena. And I agree on one simple fact, trying to watch the so-called First Four games on TruTV–normally a channel reserved for idiotic, crass, and simply stupid reality TV shows–it is not what the NCAA Tournament is about.
Sure, President Barack Obama tried to teach then British Prime Minister David Cameron about the inner workings of the sport a few years ago. In the end, just look at the ratings. They are nowhere near what CBS, TBS, and TNT have done since the four network region setup replaced the CBS regional model in 2011.
Although the one positive thing that the NCAA can bank on is that every year that they have played four games in Dayton, one of the First Four winners has had at least one extra Tournament win–with VCU proving everybody wrong in 2011 using their First Four appearance leading to a surprise Final Four berth before finally losing to Butler in Houston.
Bottom line, the television contracts are in the billions of dollars. With money changing hands faster than ever, I would not be at all surprised if the tournament expanded sometime during the next decade. The current deal with CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV to cover the Big Dance continues until the year 2032.
In my true heart of hearts after hearing that particular podcast, I am fine with the tournament the way it is. Sadly, the NCAA will not be going back to the 64 team model that gave the sports its’ greatest personality and many fun times during the exclusive CBS era. The only reason I could see if expansion could work is that the schools want that chance to earn extra money–money that could be used to improve facilities on campus and/or help with certain professor/staff salaries.
Hopefully, the NCAA will think twice about this before committing to it.
And as Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr said while as a player during the 1997 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls pep rally in Grant Park,
“That is my story, and I am sticking to it.”
You can find the podcast on Apple, iTunes, and Google Play, just search for CBS Sports Eye On College Basketball.