Thursday, April 1, 2010

Washington Post column on men's basketball tournament expansion

INDIANAPOLIS - If there was any doubt about the NCAA's intention to expand the men's basketball tournament to 96 teams, it went away on Thursday afternoon.

That's not to say anyone gave any straight answers during the NCAA's annual Final Four news conference, which isn't really a news conference but rather a chance for the suits to come in and tell everyone that all is right with their world.

They made sure everyone knew that more "student-athletes" are graduating -- that's counting all 347 Division I programs, many of whom have no chance to compete on the basketball court, but let's not go there. They also reminded everyone that the selection committee (again) did a fabulous job putting together the tournament, even if it insists that everything it does be kept top secret.

But that was all just the warmup act for Greg Shaheen, who is an NCAA vice president but also, far more importantly, the guy steering the expansion ship from inside NCAA headquarters. Shaheen is a bright, capable guy who has done a lot of good things since the late Myles Brand brought him to the NCAA as his right-hand man six years ago.

His assignment Thursday was to explain how the 96-team field will work and then try to convince people that no decisions have been made. "This could all be a discussion about nothing," he said at one point.
Right. And coaches get fired for not graduating enough players.

Here is how the tournament will play out in case you haven't, like the NCAA, been "studying models."

Click here for the rest of the column: On men's basketball tournament expansion, NCAA talks a big game


case said...

nice job , john
you mostly nailed it ,but let them off the hook a bit at the end by saying the tourney will still be great
maybe true , but at what cost ?

Brian said...

A team seeded 9th or lower, advancing to the elite 8 a la Davidson in '08, will be on the road for 12-13 consecutive days under this preposterous format. Of course, this format makes it more difficult for lower seeded teams to even get to the sweet 16. All the "bubble" discussion will now center on which teams will make the cut to receive one of the 32 byes. I wish they would just add a week to the tournament but then you'd have issues with the Final Four running concurrently with the Masters.

If this comes to fruition, the NCAA should eliminate an off-day between the first and second round. Conference tournaments function just fine without off days.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a good idea for regular season conference champs to earn automatic bids. I would also like to see conference tournament champs receive automatic bids; assuming that team is different than the regular season winner. This way the regular year is still valued - and maybe those champs should get the 1st round byes - and the tournaments still provide opportunities for last-chance-Charlies and that kind of excitement. If this was the format you would have a maximum of 62 automatic bids. Most likely about 15-20 regular winners would also win their conference tournaments. So most years the big six would have around 45 at large bids to divide up.

Also, this format would allow some of the smaller conferences to hold a tournament on a neutral site if they wished thereby giving less advantage to a host school. I suspect many (maybe all) of the conferences that do this would continue to do so because of ticket sales. However, an option would now exist for them.

I don't think it's a disaster to expand the tournament. I would actually like to expand it to all teams ala the way Indiana used to do it. I'd prefer it stayed as is but, as Knight might say, if expansion is inevitable, you may as well sit back and enjoy it.

Rich, Denver

Anonymous said...

I would also like to ask the NCAA a question. If they can't afford to stage the 88 championships each year, rather than watering down the men's tournament why not eliminate some of the unpopular and costly sports?

I don't know how much fencing costs but it appears there are fewer than 50 schools fielding teams. Why should the vast number of member schools subsidize this?

Does there really need to be three separate golf divisions with three separate championships?

How about skiing? Very few schools participate. Again, I don't know how expensive it is to stage these championships but skiing is generally pretty expensive as a hobby. And why in the world do there need to be three divisions when there are so few schools?

Rich, Denver

David said...


I recall that Dean Smith used to hate the unbalanced NCAA tournament back before it expanded to 64/65 teams. His argument, if I am remembering it correctly, was that the lower seeded teams got a chance to get their first game jitters out, get used to shooting in the arena, etc. The higher-seeded team was then at some disadvantage when it had to play the lower-seeded team. As you know, Dean Smith complained about LOTS of things, but I wonder if this will be a concern with this new format. We saw this play out to some degree this year in the Big East tournament.

Dana King said...

I always just assumed they'd add a weekend at the beginning of the tournament, push the conference tournaments up a week. They already start the season in August; what's another week?

HAs anyone considered the idea that ratings might go down? The weekend setup they've had fr years was perfect for viewers. You had a few days each week to conduct your life before settling in for a long weekend of basketball. Now it's going to be two solid weeks, beginning with a bunch of 9 seeds playing 24 seeds. Lots of folks will stay up late for those games. Sure they will

Anonymous said...

Mr Feinstein - I was reading elsewhere on your press conference questions to Greg Shaheen. I just want to say thank you for going 'old school' in a press conference, and actually try to get the answer to your question. Except on rare occasions, it seems as though reporters just don't probe for the truth, for the real answer, and this seems to be an issue that needed it. From the reaction of the other reporters in there that I've read, seems as though you were speaking for the room.

Thanks for pressing for answers on a reason for expansion other than 'its for the student-athletes.' Its amazing that the truth can't be admitted to -- its about the money.

Louis Barbash said...

Isn't NCAA's professed concern for student athletes more or less of a charade? "The real disgrace isn’t what’s illegal. It’s what’s legal. And not only legal but the sport’s fundamental modus operandi: the recruiting and enrolling, for the primary purpose of playing basketball, of young men who have no interest in getting college educations, by colleges that have no interest in educating them." From Connecting the Dots

Anonymous said...

The tournament's current problem is that a lot of bad teams are already in the tournament.Seton Hall-who didn't come close to getting in-had a better Sagarin rating than 18 of the 31 conference"champions".By expanding the tournament,these chumps will get sent packing by the excluded bubble teams,and we'll finally have the best 64 teams.