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
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What can be done?

Change is hard and usually met with some consternation. When the tournament expanded from 48 to 64 and then to 68, people lamented how a perfect thing would be ruined, especially by a gimmicky thing like the first four. In the end, those changes worked out just fine and that is why I think any tournament expansion, if done right would only better the spectacle we love. I’m not going to suggest how much the tournament should expand because no matter what number we use, there will always be teams that have gripes about being left out.

In “fixing” the tournament, we won’t be getting rid of those pesky automatic qualifiers to make more room for the big boys like Sankey suggests. Instead, it’s time to do something long talked about and that is to give automatic bids to the regular-season champion of each conference, to reward a body of work.

That doesn’t mean Championship Week will fall by the wayside. Because of its financial importance to the smaller conferences, the conference tournaments will remain with the winner also earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If a regular season champion happens to win the conference tournament as well, not only will they earn their conference’s automatic bid, but they will also earn an extra half of an NCAA Tournament unit, which based on 2023 would equate to an extra $1 Million dollars.

The other thing I would suggest in “fixing” the tournament is something that Izzo suggested, get more coaches involved in the decision-making process. Money is a huge factor in all of this nowadays so there should be a committee of sorts that makes decisions on any procedural changes to be made to the championship. The committee should be apprised of six members, three of whom would be conference administrators representing high-major, mid-major, and low-major conferences. These members would discuss the financial ramifications of any change and the other three members, three coaches representing the same cross-section would talk about the impact on the product and the logistics of the tournament. Appointment to this committee would be much like the selection committee with a two-year term.

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Tournament expansion will be talked about until it happens and it will, as will runs in the tournament by teams like N.C. State. It’s those runs and the first weekend upsets that make the tournament so great and it doesn’t matter if those teams come from the SEC, Sun Belt, or Southland they will be just as enjoyable. Sankey is perhaps right about one thing, more of those fringe teams should have that opportunity. What he got wrong though is that all of those fringe teams don’t have to come from the conferences that already have the most money.