I have a way to fix the NCAA Tournament without having to expand to 96.
Illinois (19-14, 10-8)
Virginia Tech (23-8, 10-6)
Mississippi State (23-11, 9-7)
Arizona State (22-10, 12-6)
Cincinnati (18-15, 7-11)
Rhode Island (23-9, 9-7)
Mississippi (21-10, 9-7)
University of Alabama-Birmingham (23-8, 11-5)
Dayton (20-12, 8-8)
Memphis (23-9, 13-3)
Wichita State (25-9, 12-6)
South Florida (20-12, 9-9)
Kent State (23-9, 13-3)*
UConn (17-15, 7-11)
Seton Hall (19-12, 9-9)
North Carolina (16-16, 5-11)
Tulsa (23-11, 10-6)
Northeastern (20-12, 14-4)
Texas Tech (17-15, 4-12)
William & Mary (22-10, 12-6)
Illinois State (22-10, 11-7)
Nevada (20-12, 11-5)
St. John's (17-15, 6-12)
North Carolina State (19-15, 5-11)
Troy (20-12, 13-5)*
Northwestern (20-13, 7-11)
Weber State (20-10, 13-3)*
Coastal Carolina (28-6, 15-3)*
Stony Brook (22-9, 13-3)*
Quinnipac (23-9, 15-3)*
Jackson State (19-12, 17-1)*
Jacksonville (19-12, 14-6)
*won conference regular season title
The above 32 teams are the field that makes up the N.I.T. (National Invitational Tournament). What is the N.I.T you ask; well it is a tournament that has been in existence longer (by 1 year, but older is older; just ask any older sibling) than the NCAA Tournament. They pick conference champions that didn't get a bid into the NCAAs. They pick above .500 teams that got either "snubbed" by the committee. Or teams that just were not good enough to qualify for the NCAAs.
Now that you have a quick synopsis of what the N.I.T is I will tell you why it is important that the NCAA Tournament not expand to 96 teams like they are talking about.
Before I go into that though I want you to look over those 32 teams above. Look over all of those teams and ask yourself this question:
"Would anyone, other than maybe 4 of those teams, win more than 1 game in the NCAA tournament?"
The answer to that question folks is a resounding NO!
You think Arizona State could have more than 1 game in the NCAAs? They couldn't even put away Jacksonville. AT HOME! Not a neutral site court, but AT...H--O--M--E! They couldn't run away from the 2nd place team in the Atlantic Sun. NOT the Atlantic 10 or even the Atlantic Coast Conference. THE ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE.
You think North Carolina could have mustered up something and won a game or 2 in the NCAAs? They had to come back to beat..get ready folks..William & Mary. They aren't even on the road (even with a 16-16 record and 5-11 in division apparently they are a #4 seed and William & Mary who is 21-10 and 12-5 in division is the #5 seed). They had to dig deep and win a close one AT home versus William & Mary.
UConn had to hold on against...Northeastern. No I didn't say Northwestern (they play on the 2nd night of the opening round of the N.I.T versus (2)Rhode Island) I said Northeastern. At least UConn had a winning record (17-15).
North Carolina State and South Florida played in a sham of a tournament game. The 11th place team (out of 12) in the ACC beats the 9th place team (out of 16) out of the Big East. Does that sound right to you?
Texas Tech (who doesn't deserve to be in any postseason tournament. 9th out of 12 in the Big 12 and ONLY 4 conference wins.) finally unmasks Seton Hall for what they were: a mediocre team and not a bubble team.
The 2 teams that made statements on day 1 of the N.I.T. opening round? Mississippi State and U.A.B. You know why? They are NCAA capable teams. They are possible Sweet 16 teams waiting to happen. On Day 2 of the opening round you are going to have a lot of unmasking games taking place. Look for Weber State to either beat Cincinnati going away or lose on some sort of Cincinnati buzzer beater lucky play. Look for Illinois State to beat Dayton. Then there are the 4 teams that need to show the nation that they were NCAA worthy. Rhode Island needs to drub Northwestern. Virginia Tech needs to blow away Quinnipac. Mississippi is going to kick Troy all over their gym. Illinois is going to send Stony Brook away babbling.
Then there is Tulsa v. Kent State. I will get back to this match-up later on. Just remember the match-up.
Tomorrow we are going to realize that Illinois, Mississippi, Mississippi State, U.A.B., Tulsa and Kent State were possibly NCAA worthy.
Alright if you are still with me congrats we are getting to meat.
I have a way to fix the NCAA without expanding the field to 96. It is a bit radical of an idea but it will definitely increase the TV ratings and there will be less debate about who is in and who deserved to be in.
So the NCAA wants to expand their tournament to a rumored 96 teams and then give the top 32 seeds a bye. They say it will be better with 96 teams. More games the better. More games, more upsets. We already have a "play-in" game for one of the 16 seeds. It is a fun idea but in reality who cares. No one picks that game in their tournament pools. CBS doesn't show that game (it is on ESPN). That team ends up getting creamed by the 1 seed EVERY time. If the NCAA expands to 96 the NCAA Tournament Pool Era may have seen it's best days behind it (and who know maybe that is also in the minds of the NCAA). We are all of the sudden going to see teams like North Carolina (16-16, 5-11) and UConn (17-15, 7-11) and St. John's (13th place out of 16 teams) in the NCAA tournament. It is going to lose it's luster real quick.
As it stands right now for Bubble teams. There are always 12-16 teams that are on the per verbal, "bubble". Those teams rotate between themselves depending on how they do in any given week during the months of February and early March. Then as it gets closer to Selection Sunday the teams start to trim down to 8-10 then 6-8 then by Selection Sunday we have the: Last 4 IN and the Last 4 OUT.
Here is my idea. You have the 16 teams that are on the Bubble play 4 4-team tournaments at each site (one in the morning/afternoon and one in the late afternoon/early evening).
You rank the teams from 1 to 4 in each Regional Play-In Game depending on how you rank within the 16 teams playing in all the Play-In Games. So each region would have a 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 match-up, but it would be like the best 1 seed would face the worst 4 seed and so on down accordingly. Then the 2 teams that win their games would proceed onward to the NCAA Tournament in whatever region they were sent to.
Here is the twist. Those two teams are playing for the 8 and 9 seeds. Here is why it is fair. The two teams that are the winners from the play in game deserve to knock each other out. That way you are not taking momentum into a 1st Round game versus a team that earned their shot before the tournament started. Both have already played one game so no one team has played more games than the other. That game does not count towards Team/Coach/Player Career Tournament wins, it is a hoop you have to go through to get to the Dance. Finally after you have "earned" your way past the 1st Round what is waiting for you in the 2nd Round? The #1 Seed in the Region.
Bubble teams are basically fighting for their lives/jobs for a month and a half anyway, why not give them something tangible to shoot for in the end. To leave it to a decision by a Committee of Old Men who are no longer fighting for their place in the world is cruel and unusual for those teams that just didn't make it. The last 4 out teams are always (as Dick Vitale says) Heartbreak City baby!
Why not have this 16 team Play-In (Opening Round if you want to call it that) Extravaganza?
Which brings me back to that Tulsa v. Kent State match-up. This is going to be a good game. Maybe the best game of the opening round of the N.I.T. This would be the epitome of a match-up between a 2 and 3 seed in the Opening Round for the right to be a 8 or a 9 seed in the 1st Round. Nevada v. Wichita State and Illinois State v. Dayton are other great examples of the Opening Round. It would give Mid-Majors (along with middle to back of the pack Power Conference teams with winning conference records but yet still on the bubble) a better shot at the NCAAs.
For the people who are going to say that the 17th team on the Bubble is going to complain. For those people I have only one thing to say: the 17th Bubble team is a team that is going to be so not NCAA Tournament worthy that it will be laughable.
So I would be technically expanding the Tournament to 72.
It would be better than doing the NCAA is talking about doing right now.