The NCAA and their corporate masters continue to expand the men’s Division I basketball tournament. Since I’ve followed it: 48 teams to 64, then 65, now 68. These days, I advocate for all 351 teams. It adds a week to the event, just two extra rounds. Or maybe three. There are a few ways to go.
The Tuesday First Four (really eight, but these are college people–don’t expect them to count) expands to 95 games to pare down the field to a manageable 256 teams. That boils down to 64 games on Thursday and 64 more on Friday. Try following all that on your iPhone or tablet. The only two challenges are locations (Do you keep it on campus?) and seeding (talk to tennis organizers). I say keep the top 64 as seeds, and keep things regional as much as possible.
By the second weekend, we’re back to 64 teams and let things go from there.
Another thought is to give the 32 conference champions a pass into the round-of-128. This gets a little more complex. The 254 lowest ranked teams play round 1 and pare themselves down to 127. For round 2, the 65 best non-conference winners are added to the mix, leaving 96 survivors who head into round 3. From there, the 32 conference champions are added to the tournament and the winners of that round move to the classic 64 teams. These first three rounds could be played on Tuesday plus the Thursday-Sunday weekend.
No more bubbles. Much less controversy. Everybody’s special, so no one is.