KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As conversations about potentially expanding the NCAA tournament persist, Baylor’s Scott Drew said Wednesday the sport should do it big if it decides to make the move.
“I would like to see it go to 128 [teams],” Drew told ESPN at Big 12 media day at T-Mobile Center. “I know that sounds like a lot. But everybody [would have] to win seven games, so it’s just one additional game. But really, this is why: I think there is great parity and you look in football: about half the teams get to go to the postseason.”
Drew said 128 teams, a field that would add another full round to the current format, would give a significant portion of the Division I landscape a chance to compete for a national title– 35% of the sport’s 363 teams in men’s and women’s basketball would make the NCAA tournament.
Drew’s comments at Big 12 media day extended an ongoing dialogue about the future of the NCAA tournament. Last week, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that “it’s time to look at” expanding the field, and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in August that he would support “a fresh look” at the NCAA tournament.
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark told ESPN on Wednesday that the conversation about possible expansion has to include the men’s and women’s tournaments.
“I’m a huge fan of the [NCAA tournament],” Yormark said. “I always have been. I think it captures the imagination of everyone in this country, whether you’re a hardcore fan or a casual fan. There is nothing like March. It’s unbelievable. That being said, I know there have been a lot of reports about further expansion of the tournament and I’m open to it — for both men’s and women’s [basketball], not just men’s. It has to go both ways. You’re talking about [College Football Playoff] expansion. Why not expansion in March for the basketball tournaments?”
Months after winning his second national championship at Kansas, Bill Self said he doesn’t have a strong opinion about the future of the NCAA tournament yet. But he also added that he believes the current version of the NCAA tournament is a great product.
“They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Self said. “But, in all honesty, we need to always be looking to tweak and improve, but [the NCAA tournament] feels pretty good to me right now.”
Last year, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins said the Power 5 schools should consider branching off and creating their own tournament. On Wednesday, Huggins told ESPN that Division I schools should be having conversations about revenue, not expansion, related to the NCAA tournament.
Huggins said the NCAA, which recently signed an eight-year extension with CBS/Turner Sports worth $8.8 billion for the rights to the NCAA tournament through 2032, should not keep the majority of the revenue. The NCAA country teams and leagues in the NCAA tournament field, according to their respective success, in win shares. Last year, each team in the NCAA tournament made nearly $337,000 — a fee worth nearly $2 million total because it’s paid to the team’s conference each year over a six-year period — for every win.
“I think we should be more concerned with the money distribution,” Huggins told ESPN. “I think colleges should get their fair share. I think, at the very least, the teams that make the tournament [should make the money]. And obviously, you scale it. But they deserve it. … I don’t think you remove the NCAA totally out of the equation, but I don’t think they should keep all the money.”
Drew said he understands the opportunity afforded to teams that earn a spot in the NCAA tournament field each year. He was an assistant at Valparaiso on his father Homer Drew’s staff when his brother, Bryce Drew, hit the buzzer-beater to beat Ole Miss in the opening round of the 1998 NCAA tournament. Then, 23 years later, Drew led Baylor to its first national championship.
“Players, they work all their lives to be a part of the NCAA tournament,” Drew said. “If you go to 128 [teams], you get about one-third who get to experience that. … If more teams get a chance to make it, I think [there will be] great games.”