Monday, June 26, 2006

Coaches seeking expansion

Bigger NCAA Tourney field to be discussed by hoops committee


— In a perfect world, college basketball coaches would nearly double the size of the 65-team NCAA men's tournament field. Realistically, they'd accept a smaller victory.

Motivated in part by George Mason's remarkable Final Four run last season, coaches will urge the NCAA to expand its most lucrative championship event during the men's and women's basketball committee meetings in Orlando, Fla., this week.

"They'd love to see the tournament double to 128," said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. "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."

Potential models range from minor adjustments to major changes.

When Haney met with NCAA officials last month, he proposed the 128-team field in part because postseason bids may help coaches keep their jobs.

At this year's Final Four, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim said he supported expansion on a smaller scale. Boeheim suggested adding three to seven teams, a move he said would allow as many as four opening-round games in Dayton, Ohio, instead of the one now played between the two lowest-seeded teams in the field.

Some believe such a schedule would create a more realistic tournament environment since first-round sites also play four games on the first day.

Kansas University's Bill Self, a member of the NABC Board of Directors, told the Journal-World he favored exploring the idea of an expanded field.

"I would say it certainly deserves discussion," Self said. "Our game has been modified over time, and it's always turned out to be for the better, whether expanding the tournament (from 53 teams to 64 in 1985; and 64 to 65 in 2001), widening the lane because of Wilt (Chamberlain), adding the three-point line. It all evolved and kept our game moving forward

"I'm not saying I'm all for it. I think it's worthy of discussion with parity - more good teams - than 20 years ago. It (parity) is only going to increase."

Changes don't appear imminent.

In March, NCAA president Myles Brand said he didn't see much support to expand the field, and vice president for men's basketball Greg Shaheen reiterated that point Friday.

"Many, many people believe the size of the championship is just right," Shaheen said. "A lot of people think there's enough recognition of teams that did well and there's a logical and timely conclusion to the season."

Shaheen said this week's discussions, which end Thursday, will mark the first time expansion has been on the agenda in several years. The reason?

After a four-year legal battle with the National Invitation Tournament, the NCAA agreed to buy the tournament for $56.5 million last August.

Expansion also faces additional hurdles.

If the NCAA opted for a 128-team field, the number of first-round sites would double, and an extra week of play would likely be added. Plus, Shaheen said the NCAA would have to debate how best to provide maximum television coverage.

Shaheen said changes would also have to be made in conjunction with the women's tournament.

"There is no one model that is obvious here, and that's something we need to contemplate," he said. "The other issue is how the women's tournament would be similarly impacted here and they need to coincide."

The coaches, however, contend there are many reasons to expand. Among their arguments:

¢ The number of Division I teams has increased significantly since the last major expansion more than two decades ago. The field went from 48 to 64 teams in 1985, then added a 65th team to the field in 2001 when the number of automatic bids went from 30 to 31.

¢ George Mason, which was one of the last at-large teams to make the field this year, proved parity in college basketball is real. The combination of prominent programs losing underclassmen at faster rates and scholarship reductions have helped mid-major schools become more competitive. The coaches believe they deserved to be rewarded accordingly.

¢ Now that the NCAA controls both postseason tournaments, coaches think it's time to include some of the bubble teams that annually complain when they are left out.

Could it happen?

"I don't think the idea of doubling the field is going to happen right now because there are too many complications to do that," Haney said. "But I think the committee will seriously consider what the number will be. ... I think if it happens, it will have to happen soon because of the logistical issues."


Bob Forer 13 years, 11 months ago

certainly don't think expanding the field to 128 teams makes sense--there's simply not that much talent out there to warrant that many additional teams. However, every year there around ten or so teams on the proverbial "bubble" that are rejected by the committee each year. I suggest perhaps expanding the field by an additional seven teams. The lowest eight seeds would play a preliminary round consisting of four games, so instead of having one play-in game in Dayton, you would have a play-in game in each regional, which would match the 16th seed in each regional against the winner of the four preliminary round games. What say ye all?

tonka27 13 years, 11 months ago

leave it alone. Maybe 70, but 128 is a little insane!

Mr_Sandman 13 years, 11 months ago

leave the tourney alone. too many teams get in that don't deserve it already. I love march madness, but if we keep expanding it will water the tourney down too much.

docnaismith 13 years, 11 months ago

Pretty stupid idea expanding the field. If they expand it to 128 teams, why not go all out and have the 1,024 team tournament, including your top D-II, D-III & JuCo teams. It will be like the old Indiana High School tournament, incorporating all teams regardless of class. Seriously, though, if they expand it to 128 teams, before long that still won't be enough. They'll still find reason for the play-in game, bringing the total to a sparkling 129.

seattlehawk_78 13 years, 11 months ago

Part of the allure of March Madness is who will make it to the dance. Expansion will diminish that allure. 65 is too many and more than 65 is way too many. If we start letting teams like Mizzou in then what's the purpose of having a regular season. If I were King, I'd pare it down to 32. Maybe make it double elimination like baseball.

DocBean 13 years, 11 months ago

Stupid Idea!!! Basically that's just saying end the season with a .500 Winning percentage and you get into the tourny. It's only designed to let really bad coaches keep their jobs - they can say "hey, I got us to the tournament 5 years in a row!"

JBurtin 13 years, 11 months ago

I've made my opinion know on past stories on the same subject. If it aint broke, don't fix it. I love the way the tournament works right now. If anything, I would get rid of the play in game that already exists. Give all of the conferences an automatic bid and reduce the tourney by one bubble team. I would much rather see the best team from two small conferences than a team that doesn't have their act together from a large conference.

Martin Shupert 13 years, 11 months ago

Indiana high school basketball had it right and they messed with success. Including everyone in the tournament or doubling the number isn't all that insane. Cinderellas are everywhere waiting for their chance, but we shut them out. There is a better chance of a Milan happening in college than in high school competition. Think back to Indiana State when a player named Larry Bird brought them all the way to the final game. The present situation is so stacked against the mid majors, it isn't on the horizon of fair. Years ago, Digger Phelps suggested that college basketball should use college baseball's model, a double elimination tournament to get to the final four, then a straight elimination group of four. Everyone would be in it. That way, if you lose twice, you don't deserve to be the national champions anyway. Sure, lots more games. Woe is us. How much basketball is too much basketball? I have an equally difficult question to answer. What's north of the north pole?

lee3022 13 years, 11 months ago

After watching the College World Series this week, where there is double emimination and best 2 of 3 for the final, I would rather see basketball do something similar. The reason an at-large mid-major can make the run is that so many better teams had one bad game. The game is not only about hot streak shooting. It is also about adjustments and coming back. Obviously there need to be fewer teams not more to make it more likely to produce the best team in the championship.

tis4tim 13 years, 11 months ago

As a young boy, Michael Jackson was successful. Then, as he grew and became more successful, he made some modifications. Then, he became even more successful and had even more modifications done. He eventually reached the height of his success and decided to modify things one more time. His nose fell off.

The point? Don't blow it...the tourney has a good structure to it. Leave it alone before it is weakened too much and falls apart.

JBurtin 13 years, 11 months ago

That has got to be the funniest analogy I've heard in quite a while. The tournament right now is way too much fun to watch. I absolutely love the sheer intensity of win or go home. If it had been a best out of three showdown against Bradley or Bucknell, our depth would have paid off and we probably would have won both series. Unfortunately, that would have made that first game a joke.

It just wouldn't be fun to watch a watered down tournament like the NBA playoffs. How many people do you know who fill out NBA playoff brackets? Sure people bet on individual games, but the individual game has lost its meaning. There are no crazy "great equalizers" like one player just getting extraordinarily hot from three, no incredible upsets (honestly who didn't think the Heat would win it all), no tiny George Masons of the NBA world that perform beyond all expectations.

With the way it's structured right now, it even makes the selection process fun. Everybody knows who's going to the NBA playoffs. In the NCAA's, nobody knows where they are going to go or what their seed will be until the announcement is made. The chance that a team who is arguably deserving to go might get left out is a big part of what makes it entertaining. If you add more teams, you will still have a bubble somewhere, but now the bubble will be some pathetic mid majors that nobody will care about missing out on the tournament.

prairie_rattler 13 years, 11 months ago

For many, the allure of the NCAA tourney is filling out a bracket... this can only turn those individuals off.

Besides... couldn't you consider a conference tournament (with the winner getting an automatic berth) essentially the same thing?

tis4tim 13 years, 11 months ago

What I find interesting in reading many articles about the topic is that it's George Mason's success which is being bandied about as a major reason in arguing for expansion. Yet, they probably wouldn't have been the fantastic story they were if the tourney had 128 (or more!) teams. It would be some other small-statured school. Wouldn't that then make the GM argument a reason to keep the tourney the way it is?

I think for the most part you do get two of the best teams playing if not the two best in the final game. To further ensure that, the NCAA decided to reseed the last four. Sure there are major upsets and luck does play a factor. But, it's hard to get lucky for six straight victories against increasingly more difficult competition. Skill and talent usually wins out in the end. So, in that respect, I don't see the need for double elimination. That would only prevent what we all like to see...the upsets (unless it's our team getting upset). The less competitive and less athletic teams will most likely wilt, leaving only the best two standing.

I think too much emphasis has been taken away from the regular season. Any more expansion would further dilute the distinction of regular season champion. Maybe the regular season champion should get the automatic bid and not the conference tourney champion?

tis4tim 13 years, 11 months ago

Again, winning six in a row is grueling. I tend to think that favors the elite teams over the long haul.

Is the best team the one that SHOULD have won but didn't, or is it the one that makes the best of its draw, its luck and its opportunities and wins the title? If it's widely accepted that the tourney is supposed to determine the best team in college basketball, I would submit that the second part of that question is more accurate.

Mr_Sandman 13 years, 11 months ago

LEAVE THE TOURNEY ALONE!! I would even lean toward agreement with some above who have suggested the college Baseball format. But if we get up to 128 teams, that would be ridiculous.

boots92 13 years, 11 months ago

I say leave the tournament alone, except get rid of the 65th seed. It's a joke! The single elimination format is what makes it so exciting. Does the "best" team win each year? Not if you look at who's been the best throughout the season. But I contend that the final almost always matches up two of the top teams, not some undeserving team that backed their way in. However, it does happen that a team that wasn't so dominating over the course of the season, but did well enough to earn a chance, can get rolling, take advantage of their seeding, a few breaks, a hot shooter and win it all. I believe '88 was a prime example (blasphemy to most KU faithful but true none the less).

I agree that there is more parity in the league and I love to see the mid majors crash the party (even when it's against us). That's the thrill of hte tournament format. You have a bad night or come out over confident and you're done. The one change I would make hasn't even been mentioned. I'd like to limit the number of team a single conference can get in. Maybe say five or how about one-third of the teams in a conference? I'm not sure the right number or formula but I think it's ridiculous to see 6, 7, 8 teams from a conference of 12 +/-. If you're not good enough to land near the top of your own conference, you're not good enough to dance. I'd much rather see a second team from a mid major than see the sixth team in the Big XII/ACC/SEC who barely finshed above .500.

I come from a soccer background here in Dallas (for what it's worth I thought the Mavs would crush the Heat). The biggest youth soccer tourney in the world is the Dallas Cup. As the host league we get four spots out of the 16 total in each age division. We have over 60 highly competive club teams in the area! Every year someone complains about being number 5 and getting left out. We also have an automatic bid for the winner of the State Cup. That's usually one of the top four anyway but when it's not, the #4 team raises a stink. But everyone knows the rules going in and nothing changes. The "best" teams usually get in and do well but not always. That's why we play the game. Just like in college hoops, if we doubled the field there would still be someone complaining about being left off of the bus.

One last point, and I'll shut up. Outside of my love for soccer (don't hate me), college hoops is the only sport I follow. Sure I love the "Hawks, but I love the tournament even more. In a "best of X" series the better team will (almost) always win. KU would have a few more title banners to hang in Allen FH (1994-95?) but the excitement would be lost. Don't expand the field anymore unless you want to just include everyone and throw out the regular season. And don't do away with one and done format, as painful as it's been for KU fans of late. Keep the format, keep the number and keep the hype that is March Madness.

seattlehawk_78 13 years, 11 months ago

As painful as it has been, I must admit the single elimination format does have an element of excitement.

As for the '88 season boots92, you're right, we were not very dominating during the regular season, many were thinking NIT that year. But as you say, we did get rolling and we took advantage of our seeding and a few breaks. But, we had the absolute best player in the country and one of the smartest coaches as well. At the expense of starting another we hate Roy thread, I was much more disappointed with Larry Brown left. It was kind of expected but it was still disappointing.

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