NCAA Expands Tournament To Fit 68 Teams
After much agonizing late in this year's tournament, the NCAA has officially made some changes to the tournament format starting next spring.
On the bright side, they did not choose to expand the tournament to a whopping 96 teams as was initially feared, but rather to 68 teams.
The tournament itself will see very little change in format, as this three-team addition merely means that the first Tuesday of the tournament will feature four play-in games - one for each region - instead of just one.
What this likely means is that mediocre major and mid-major programs like Illinois or Virginia Tech from this past year would have gotten high double-digit seeds, while the tournament would have perhaps used the play-in games to pit the lower conferences against each other.
There were several instances where the mid-majors who earned very high at-large seeds would likely wind up essentially replaying their conference championship game to earn a seed in the tournament (since it would be either that or give at-large bids to barely deserving teams that wound up as No. 2 seeds in the NIT this year).
Is it a great idea? I don't think so. I don't think it really harms anything, but it doesn't really improve the product either. I think Jim Calhoun is right when he says that the success of teams like Cornell and Butler this year demonstrates that the existing format provides plenty of entertainment value. However, more dollars is more dollars.
One last note, in that same vein, is that viewing will change slightly. The new television deal, announced simultaneously and worth many billions of dollars, runs all the way until 2024. It will have first and second round games broadcast on some combination of CBS and the TBS family of networks (TBS, TNT, truTV) in an effort to have every single first and second round game air live.
This decision isn't final just yet, as the NCAA Board of Directors must approve, but that seems likely. Given the joy the latest development will bring to my remote-controlling finger, I'll call it a wash for now.