When an announcement of another men's basketball tournament in March hit Wednesday, I wanted to throw up.
Another tournament? Does college basketball need a 16-team tournament to augment a 65-team NCAA Tournament and a 32-team NIT? Yeah, this idea sounds as good as late night shot of Jäger.
Response from other news outlets was the similar:
- "We really don't need another meaningless postseason tournament. The NIT already exists."
- "New college basketball rallying cry: We're No. 98!"
- "Has anyone actually been clamoring for another post-season tournament?"
- "That will bring the number of teams competing in the postseason in three tiers of tournaments to 113. Why? So more teams get to hang a banner for competing while grumbling about being excluded from the Big Dance?"
(Side note: This new tourney would include teams left out of the NCAA Tournament, and not the NIT. The announcement didn't specify, but that leads me to believe they want to compete with the NIT for the best teams not playing in the 65-team field. Not sure diluting the NIT is a smart move to gain more viewers, but we'll see if that's how it'll shake out.)
Everything centers around this basic tenet: If you didn't make the NCAA Tournament, or the NIT, then you didn't have a good enough season to keep playing. Simple as that. Even UConn coach Jim Calhoun -- whose team missed the NCAAs with a 17-14 record -- said so last season.
So why? Because people complain about being left out of the Big Dance and they want it expanded.
From a longer article on the new tourney from CSTV.com: "They'd [College Basketball Coaches] love to see the tournament double to 128. It's based on several things. First, there are a lot of good teams worthy of making the NCAA field, and second, the size of 64 or 65 has been in place for a number of years."
This isn't a new phenomenon, either. After George Mason reached the 2006 Final Four, coaches broached the idea at their summer committee meetings, but no changes were expected, nor were any enacted.
With 33 automatic bids going to more than 330 D-I teams, it can be tough to decide on those remaining teams worthy of inclusion. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim -- whose team probably did deserve to be in the 2007 tournament but had to settle for the NIT -- has been one of the most vocal proponents of expanding the NCAA Tournament.
Doubling it to 128 teams has been the usual thought, but Boeheim is one who thinks adding even three-to-seven teams would work. That would give the tournament four play-in games, compared to the lone Tuesday game now.
That throw-up feeling is creeping up again...
Here's the thing: As a hoops fan, I love the basic idea of more basketball in March. I wish there was more basketball year-round. But that's strictly as a fan. There should be concerns about student-athletes missing more and more class (because if there are 113 teams playing in March, a vast majority of them won't even be thinking of the NBA), and if the games are even worth watching. It's like expanding college football bowls every year. Sure, a couple of more schools got to play in a bowl game, but who's watching that showdown between a 6-5 Big 12 school and an 8-3 MAC school besides those alumni and students?
And if it's truly a test to see how teams fare and what the interest is to expand the NCAA Tournament, then there's a host of logistical considerations. That would mean adding tournament sites, how TV coverage would work and what it would mean for the women's tournament.
(Not to mention how the hell anyone could cover this. I can't begin to explain how hard it is to coordinate coverage of a 65-team tournament, let alone one twice that size. But that's the throw-up feeling talking.)
I suppose expansion of the NCAA Tournament is inevitable. The last significant expansion was in 1985 (when it went to 64 teams) and the number of D-I schools has risen significantly. It makes sense to accommodate those growing needs, but some would argue that would diminish the tournament's importance.
But if expansion is evitable, this would be the wrong way to test the waters.