The Super Bowl is the single biggest event in sports, the latest evidence being that we’ve just spent the past two weeks debating what commercials we should or shouldn’t be subjected to while we’re trying to focus on our beer. And nachos. And beer.
(By the way: Received yet another email today from an organization asking me to interview them about “family.” I would’ve thought ignoring the first 23 emails about “family” would’ve been a hint. Are “family” organizations oblivious to hints?)
Where was I? Oh yes, sports. The Super Bowl may be the biggest event, but the NCAA basketball tournament is the best thing going. It contains everything we love about sports, particularly upsets and underdog stories. It’s (almost) perfect the way it is.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has long pushed for expansion. He believes the fact that only 65 of 347 teams (18.7 percent) make the tournament is insufficient. In terms of pure math, he may have a point. Think about it: 12 of 32 teams (37.5 percent) make the playoffs in the NFL. But I’d be more inclined to support the idea of significant NCAA expansion if we had been witnessing a few upsets by Nos. 15 and 16 seeds now and then. And we haven’t.
Georgia coach Mark Fox put it best: “To reach the tournament should be a very special accomplishment. There are not 96 teams that are deserving to go.”
Because almost every decision is based on money — and more tournament games means more televised events and, therefore, revenue — there is a reasonable chance the tournament will expand in some form. Here’s my compromise: More play-in games.
Right now, two teams are chosen to play a game for the last of 64 spots. Expand that to four games. If you really want to go crazy, have a play-in tournament and shorten the regular season.
In short, 60 slots will be filled by automatic and at-large bids. The other four spots will be determined by eight teams trying to play their way in. This expands the small-school presence that makes the tournament special, without watering the the tournament down.
Expansion to 96 teams also would render the regular season relatively meaningless.
Then again, in a 96-team field, the ACC could probably get nine or 10 teams in the tournament, and I’m assuming that would make Hewitt happy.