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SHOULD THE NCAA TOURNAMENT EXPAND?
October 24, 2006

SCS.comOver the summer, the NCAA basketball tournament committee met to discuss the possibility of increasing the number of teams they accept to their annual, highly-anticipated menís college basketball tournament. While the decision was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the number of teams at 65, it will only be kept this way for at least another year, when the committee will most likely vote again on whether or not to expand.

So here are five simple reasons why the NCAA Tournament should expand, and five more reasons why they shouldnít:

1. THE TRUTH

Why Expand?

NCAA Tournament bids help coaches keep their jobs. Itís that simple. By allowing more teams into the field, it would be expected that more college coaches would keep their jobs.

Why Not To Expand?

More college coaches leading their team to the Tournament means more coaches demanding pay raises or threatening to leave and coach a different team to a Tournament bid.

2. THE NCAA NOW OWNS THE NIT

Why Expand?

Since the NCAA bought the NIT for $56.5 million this past year, they can put whomever they want in either tournament. They can use the ďHave No PityĒ rule and send whichever teams that cry about not getting into ďThe Big DanceĒ to their newly-owned National Invitation Tournament.

Why Not To Expand?

Sending weaker teams to the NIT means that no one will really watch or attend the tournament. After all, what are you going to watch: a big, single-elimination tournament with the nationís top teams competing against other great teams for the right to be called the national champions, or a bunch of teams you havenít really heard of competing against other teams you havenít really heard of for what, 66th place out of all the Division I teams? It just doesnít sound very exciting to me (no offense South Carolina).

Well great! The NCAA just bought the NIT for $56.5 million dollars and now no oneís going to care about it. Thatís a lot of money down the drain that couldíve been used for other good causes, such as, oh, I donít know, maybe fixing the BCS system.

3. FANS LOVE CINDERELLA

Why Expand?

Every now and then, thereís a school that upsets a top-seeded team, and maybe makes a run at a Sweet Sixteen appearance (or even the Final Four like George Mason did this past year). What happens? The fans and media saddle up and take a ride on their bandwagon. From an appearance on TV with David Letterman to the cover of Sports Illustrated, the entire nation loves them. It seems like everyone canít get enough of the upset-minded teams. Hey, what better way to get more Cinderellas in the Tournament than to expand it, giving more chances for upsets to happen, and more Cinderella teams to live the good life.

Why Not To Expand?

The reason fans love the Cinderella teams so much is because they only come around so often. Like your favorite toy you thought you had lost so many years ago but suddenly found, you savor it. People love them because theyíre rare. Itís not everyday you turn on SportsCenter late at night to see the top headline being that 13 seed you thought shouldnít have even made the tournament has now upset the 4 and 5 seeds in its bracket to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Yes, if more teams are added, upsets will be more likely. But if upsets are happening more often, people wonít enjoy it as much.

In the newly-expanded tournament, a team that has just knocked off a 3 seed wonít get the national headline in the sports paper the next morning, because surprise, that team that barely got over .500 during the regular season and wouldnít have even made the NIT in the old tournament beat a 2 seed.

4. MAJOR CONFERENCES RULE THE TOURNAMENT

Why Expand?

Thereís no doubt that teams from the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-10, and SEC) draw the most fans to the tournament. The major conferences are what hold the tournament together. This past season, 26 of the 34 at-large bids went to teams from those conferences. Of those 26 schools, only 6 failed to win their first round matchup. If the tournament does indeed expand, that will mean a more-than-likely increase in the number of major conference teams, rather than an increase in mid-major and lower conference schools. The more major teams, the more fans. The more fans, the more attention to the tournament.

Why Not To Expand?

Last year, 5 of the 16 teams to reach the 3rd round were non-major conference schools. Memphis advanced to the Elite Eight, while 11th-seeded George Mason was the first 9th-seeded or worse team to reach the Final Four since LSU also did it as an 11 seed back in 1986. Also, the mid-major and lower conference at-large schools went 7-6 against all major conference schools in the tournament last year. If the tournament expands, this will increase the major conference to lower conference team ratio, giving the little teams less hope of reaching the Final Four. Once again, people love Cinderella schools that upset top seeds to advance further and further in the tournament. Fewer Cinderellas equals less money. And of course, we all know that itís all about the money.

5. IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY

Why Expand?

Thereís no denying it. Thereís no way to hide it. The reason the NCAA Tournament wants to expand is to make more money. But maybe thatís not such a bad thing. The NCAA makes more money by having more sites holding games while our team gets a site that is actually close to home. The NCAA makes money by having more games televised by CBS while we get to watch more basketball, and of course, the always enjoyable game of "try to come up with an excuse to miss work or school before Thursday."

Why Not To Expand?

...Well actually, all of that above seemed pretty sweet to me.

Maybe Iíll go with the "Iíve been working my butt off so Iím taking a two-day long break" excuse this year. Or maybe the old "my wife thinks we need some alone time with each other to catch up on all weíve been missing out on in life." Whatever your excuse is, make sure youíre home in time to watch the NCAA basketball tournament, where once again it will be a single-elimination 65 team tournament, at least for one more year. And who knows, maybe you might even watch a game or two of the NIT.

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