possible probable certain NCAA tournament expansion is no longer just being bandied about by college hoops writers and pundits. Not after NCAA officials actually discussed expansion plans at length during Thursday's introductory press conference to the Final Four.
And it wasn't pretty.
It fell to Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's senior vice president of basketball and business strategies, to explain the why the expansion is needed (money, though it was never explicitly said) and how it'll be handled. Shaheen said many expansion plans were covered, but only three will be considered from this point until a decision is reached July 31: the current 65-team field, a 68-team field and a 96-team field.
If it does go to 96, here's how the rough schedule:
The model that has been talked about a great deal, the 96-team model, looks as follows: .
It starts on the same day. Technically speaking it starts two days later than the current championship because it would eliminate the opening round game. Rather than starting on Tuesday, it would start on Thursday. Start at the same time as the current championship does. It would conclude on the same day. It would conclude on Monday that the current championship does, as well.
If you're confused by that graf, there's good reason. Shaheen didn't cover the second week, when games would now be added on Tuesday and Wednesday, then continue as normal through Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's 10 days of tournament games in an 11-day span.
It's a ton of games – and not much time for school. Enter writer John Feinstein, who exchanged a series of back-and-forth questions one writer compared to Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine. There's a complete transcript here, but the highlights are below.
Q. Greg, you laid out in great detail the travel schedule for the first week. Just so I'm sure I have it right, you're going to play the round of 64 Saturday/Sunday, correct?
GREG SHAHEEN: Uh-huh.
Q. So you didn't lay out the travel schedule for the second week when presumably teams will be playing Monday/Tuesday, then winners would go almost directly to regionals on Thursday/Friday, if that's the schedule as I think it is.
GREG SHAHEEN: It's one of several models that exist. But actually it doesn't necessarily mean that the play continues on Monday/Tuesday. Actually, depending on the structure, there can be a break on Monday so that a team that, for example, is playing Saturday could play Saturday, then Tuesday. So they would have both Sunday and Monday without games.
You also have to keep in mind that on any day of competition, you're losing half the field. Half of the teams are losing and returning home. So, for example, in the first four days of the championship, whereas right now you go from 65 during that time to 16, here you go from 96 to 32. So the majority of teams by number will be back home at that point in time.
But then for the teams that do advance, they would play -- they could play that Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, for example, going into regional week.
Q. To follow up, if you're going Saturday/Tuesday, Sunday/Tuesday then with the teams that advance if they're playing Saturday/Sunday games, right?
GREG SHAHEEN: They would play Saturday/Tuesday.
Q. So you're not going to play any games on Sunday of the first weekend?
GREG SHAHEEN: No. You'd play half the games on Saturday, half the games on Sunday.
Q. The Sunday teams that advance would play on Tuesday or are you saying Wednesday?
GREG SHAHEEN: Wednesday.
Q. Basically they'll be out of school an entire week the second week?
GREG SHAHEEN: Actually, if you were to look at the window for each individual team, you have to take each team and contemplate the fact right now you have half the field leaving campus on Tuesday, returning on Sunday or Monday.
Q. If they lose. I'm talking about the teams that win in advance. You're going to advance 16 teams.
GREG SHAHEEN: No, actually in the current model you have teams that depart on Tuesday, and even if they win, return on Sunday.
Q. We're misunderstanding each other. Under the new model that you laid out, you play 64 teams Thursday/Friday. 32 advance to games Saturday/Sunday. Then you are down after those games to 32 teams.
GREG SHAHEEN: Right.
Q. You're saying you play games in the round of 32 Tuesday/Wednesday. They would then advance to regionals when?
GREG SHAHEEN: They would continue into the regional as it's normally scheduled now.
Q. So they would go Tuesday to Thursday, Wednesday to Friday?
GREG SHAHEEN: Right.
Q. So they miss an entire week of school. That's what I'm trying to get.
GREG SHAHEEN: If you listened to my original answer, they leave now on Tuesday.
Q. I'm talking about the second week, not the first week. They play a game Saturday/Sunday, play a game Tuesday or Wednesday, then go directly to the regional. Tell me when in that second week they're going to be in class.
GREG SHAHEEN: The entire first week, the majority of the teams would be in class.
Q. You're just not going to answer the question about the second week. You're going to keep referring back to the first week, right? They're going to miss the entire second week under this model.
GREG SHAHEEN: So they're going to go to school the first week, and then they're --
Q. They're going to be under the same schedule you said basically the first week, and then they'll miss the entire second week.
GREG SHAHEEN: I'm clearly missing the nuance of your point.
Q. You and I miss nuances a lot. Thank you.
BOB WILLIAMS: Next question, please.
Yeesh. I think Tyler Durden probably should've given Shaheen a few tips on how to handle questions like that. It might've gone more smoothly.
Mike Miller's also on Twitter, usually talkin' hoops. Click here for more.