--By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The NCAA currently tries to insult America’s intelligence each March by telling us that the NCAA Tournament starts on a Tuesday in Dayton. Sorry guys, I don’t care that you call the four contests in Ohio “the first round” or that those teams are paid a full tourney share. March Madness starts at 12:15pm EST on Thursday when there are 64 teams in the bracket. Period.
After watching the “first four”, it is painfully obvious that there are barely 64 quality teams this season that deserve to compete for the national title. Technically, every team (with the exception of the Ivy League) has a chance to get in the Big Dance by winning an automatic bid in a league tournament. It’s just silly to cheapen a great event and screw up brackets with the Tuesday/Wednesday “introduce sports fans to TruTV” games.
College basketball coaches, and maybe a few TV executives, are the only ones who want to see the tourney expanded. A 96- or 128-team field would only water down March Madness and would make the regular season even more irrelevant. It would also eliminate the excitement of the bubble, deplete the country’s love affair with the opening rounds on Thursday and Friday, and destroy office pools as everyone loves them. When it was recently suggested that the tourney might double, Missouri guard Kim English tweeted the following:
“128 NCAA tournament teams would be a complete joke! Oregon State vs Nebraska in the 1st round. On the Food network. Jimmy Dykes on the call”
Well said Kim. Even the players realize how silly 128 teams would be; now we just need coaches to realize it. When the Mountain West was formed and needed an auto bid, the NCAA should have just cut one at-large invitation. Instead, it gave in to pressure and created a convoluted 65-team field which has now led to the ignored “first four”. I know it won’t happen, but college basketball would be better if the NCAA would correct that mistake.
Sixty-four is the perfect field size. Just ask America.