Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: NC State's run likely to spark more tournament expansion talk

Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Ben Middlebrooks (34)
Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Ben Middlebrooks (34) / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 4

Greg Sankey's comments

Imagine a tournament without Gordon Hayward nearly beating Duke for the title from half-court or without the endearing story of Sister Jean. If SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has his way that's what the NCAA tournament will look like in the future. Sankey recently commented in a phone interview "Nothing remains static," he told ESPN. "I think we have to think about the dynamics around Division I and the tournament."

He added that recent runs by UCLA from the First Four to the Final Four in 2021 and Syracuse's run to the Round of 16 beginning with a play-in game in Dayton in 2018 show the caliber of power-conference teams on the fringe of the NCAA tournament.

"That just tells you that the bandwidth inside the top 50 is highly competitive," Sankey said. "We are giving away highly competitive opportunities for automatic qualifiers [from smaller leagues], and I think that pressure is going to rise as we have more competitive basketball leagues at the top end because of expansion." The run by N.C. State will only continue to fuel his fervor on the subject.

There is so much to unlock in that quote, first and foremost, college basketball is not college football Mr. Sankey. One of the things that makes the tournament great is its inclusion, that is to say at the beginning of the year everyone has equal dreams of making the postseason and they have an equal chance to do so. That is in contradiction to college football where we could fast forward five years in time and still know who the top five to eight programs will be.

Secondly, Sankey clearly doesn't understand that it's the aura, purity, and parity that makes the tournament what it is. This quote is another money grab attempt knowing that college athletics will continue to tend towards super conferences as they try to squeeze out the smaller conferences. The run by N.C. State will be added to the list he mentions of UCLA and Syracuse as fringe power-conference teams that made runs in the tournament.

Look, we're all enjoying the D.J. Burns and crew, but what Sankey is missing in his list is the likes of Wichita State, VCU, FGCU, St. Peter's, and FAU because as he openly admits it doesn't fit his narrative and his vision for the tournament. It's his list of teams that demonstrates he doesn't understand what makes the tournament great when it comes to these runs. It's not the specific team that makes it impressive, it's the story. Replace UCLA, Syracuse, and N.C. State with Indiana State, Memphis, and Iowa and we would be just as enamored with the story.

One other thing that should be looked at with this quote is that Sankey is doing a bit of biting the hand that feeds him when it comes to coaches in his conference. He should remember that a lot of the top coaches in his conference, including the league's final four representative and the newly hired head man at Vanderbilt are there, at least in part because they cut their national teeth on big stages in March. Now he wants to take away the opportunity for those coaches to potentially catapult themselves into bigger jobs including the SEC. Expanding the tournament isn't a bad idea, but doing so for the reasons Sankey lays out would be horrifically bad for college basketball.