If you want to know why the NCAA Tournament should never expand beyond 65 teams, look no further than the 2010 Connecticut Huskies.
We forget now, after watching the team win its third national title in 12 years just how poorly it played a year ago. We knew the season was a lost cause long before a late season three game skid sealed the deal. In fact, it was clear long before Jim Calhoun left the team for health reasons. As soon as Stanley Robinson became the focal point of the offense and people started calling the ultra-athletic swingman a potential lottery pick, things fell apart.
Look, it’s not that I have anything against Robinson. Every Husky fan knows how far he’s come. But anyone who has watched him play over the past four seasons knows he is the last guy you want taking a big shot. You know how most teams rally around their star player when he nails a long three or catches an alley-oop? Well the Huskies go in the tank. And it’s because as soon as Robinson makes a jumper, he suddenly thinks he’s Ray Allen and as soon as he slashes to the basket, he thinks he’s LeBron James. He’s not close to either.
He’s just the best player on a flawed, young team that seems destined for the NIT.
But it now appears that in the not-too-distant future, possibly as soon as next year, weak teams with rich basketball histories will never have to worry about settling for the Not Invited Tournament again. That’s the message the NCAA is sending if, as Sports By Brooks first reported, it increases the number of teams playing in March to 96.
It’s not a done deal yet, but NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen told Fox Sports’ college basketball writer Jeff Goodman that the organization is considering expansion.
“It’s part of our due diligence,” Shaheen said. “We have to look at what our membership wants. We have to assess everything. Have we talked to people in our membership about expanding? Absolutely.”
Expanding the tournament would just mean adding second and third-rate teams from the major conferences while doing very little for anyone else. Does anyone really think the MAAC sends an extra team dancing if the tournament grows? It would just reward mediocrity and make the regular season even less relevant than it is now.
The only one who stands to benefit from this is the NCAA itself. An extra weekend of March Madness means millions of dollars in additional television revenue and ticket sales.
But at what cost?
College basketball is already considered a diluted product. The NBA’s one year requirement is partially to blame for this. With the exception of the very best teams, most people can’t name more than one or two starters on any team in America. And because there are very few upper classmen, the players tend to be a lot rougher around the edges, meaning the average game can be summed up like this: Dribble, dribble, dribble, three pointer. Dribble, dribble, dribble, three pointer.
Going to 96 teams would just expose the sport even more. Yes the additional games will provide us with more upsets and buzzer beaters. But they’ll also give us more air balls from the Stanley Robinson’s of the world as well as the poor, undisciplined play of teams similar to this year’s Connecticut team.
The NCAA tournament is supposed to feature the very best college basketball has to offer.
Expansion would just leave the dance floor overcrowded.