With college basketball media days comes talk of the sport’s future and plenty of coaches politicking for their best interests.
A popular theme this year was around hypothetically expanding the NCAA Tournament. Both ACC commissioner Jim Phillips and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey pushed for it in the last couple of weeks, while new Missouri coach Dennis Gates went a step further and called for a doubling of the field. Women’s coaches like Arkansas’ Mike Neighbors also chimed in on the subject.
Let’s be clear, the push is purely out of self interest and not for the overall benefit of the sport. Conferences want as many of their teams in the postseason as possible to capitalize on the revenue generated, while coaches are trying to protect their jobs.
But all an expansion would do is devalue the regular season (we don’t need college basketball to become what the NBA regular season is from a no-one-game-truly-matters standpoint) and taint what is already arguably the greatest postseason in sports. Because the most vocal members right now are tied to power-five teams and those teams on the bubble already have plenty of opportunities to make it and don’t take advantage. Not only do they have an abundance of quad one and two games on the schedule, compared to mid-major counterparts, but they already have their conference tournaments to use their momentum to get an automatic bid.
Take the first teams left out of last year’s tournament. Texas A&M was 20-11 in the regular season, was 1-4 against ranked teams before the conference tournament (9-9 in Q1 & 2 games overall), and at one point lost eight games in a row. Oklahoma was 17-14 in the regular season, 4-8 against ranked teams, and at one point had a 1-7 stretch during the regular season.
The games have to matter. Teams have 31 regular-season chances to prove they belong. And they don’t even need to prove they are the best to get a shot. We’re talking about programs that are worse than 65+ other teams complaining they don’t have a shot at a national title. Last year, A&M and Oklahoma had some really nice wins. They also had literal weeks in a row full of losses where they could have done better.
And with how the bracket works, the push is not to just let the 3-4 “snubs” in. These coaches are calling for the 90-100th teams in the country to play for a title. Even if you are a fan of one of those programs in a given year, you’ll see more negatives than positives. More blowouts in early rounds. More ugly basketball. And more irrelevance in the regular season.
College basketball needs more eyes and excitement. This would push all that progress in reverse.
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