Expand March Madness

Earlier this week, I wrote about a proposal by the National Association of Basketball Coaches to double the size of the field for March Madness a.k.a. the NCAA Tournament.

Since then, the NCAA has decided to stay status quo and keep the field at 65.

Personally, I thought expansion was a pretty good idea. Every year you have teams with 17 or 18 wins that are left out of the mix. It's not a big time factor, either. You would only be adding one more weekend of tournament play to the schedule.

By having 128 teams in the tournament, you could certainly eliminate a conference tournament, which would enable the NCAA Tournament to finish at the same time as it does now. You wouldn't need a conference tournament because all the good teams would make the field anyway.

If you aren't at 128, you certainly can't argue that you should be there.

Hawai'i coach Riley Wallace made two good points during a recent phone interview. Many coaches lose their jobs because they don't reach the post-season tournament, and that's not always right. There are some good unemployed basketball coaches out there right now because they didn't make the NCAA tournament enough times.

The second point he made was that television could very well decide any sort of expansion to the tournament. Right now, the TV contract with CBS covers expenses to run every other tournament the NCAA puts on at all classifications.

San Jose State head coach George Nessman was pleased that the committee was even discussing the matter, and his concern was participation.

"I know they are trying to preserve the tournament; it's such a great event," Nessman said. "I'd like to know how many other sports (and individuals) across the board get into championship caliber play? If it's one-fifth in other sports, I'm fine. If it's a one-third or one-half ..."

Who wouldn't want another week of March Madness? It's huge and with more teams involved, it will only get bigger and more popular.

The one thing that could hold any huge expansion back is the women's game. Would the NCAA feel that it has to go to 128 women's teams too?

That would be a mistake. I could see the women's tournament expanding, but maybe by eight teams only, There's a huge disparity in terms of competitive balance between the men and women. There are nowhere near the amount of good women's team compared to men's teams in the NCAA. To go up to 128 on the women's side would be ugly. There would be mismatches aplenty early in the tournament.

I don't buy the argument that it's more school time missed. That's what tutors are for, and I don't think that missing one, maybe two days of school is going to make a world of difference. If it is, maybe that student-athlete shouldn't have been recruited anyway. There certainly isn't any reason teams can't travel with a tutor, either. Plan ahead. I'm sure most professors have a schedule of what's going to be covered when.

After all, it is a single-elimination tournament, and 64 teams would be out that first Thursday or Friday. Missing class becomes only critical to the teams that make the Final Four when you stop and think about it. That would be 8 to 10 days of missed class time over the course of a month. That's probably what a lot of basketball players miss every month of the basketball season anyway.

I blame part of the problem on basketball players missing class on the schools themselves. Sometimes people won't play against people in their own backyard because they might lose and that could screw up their ranking or power ranking. I firmly believe that's what keeps UCLA, Gonzaga, Arizona and Washington out of Lawlor Events Center. The world saw what Kirk Snyder & Co. did to a nationally ranked Kansas team three years ago, and it's been tough for the Pack to line up big-time games in Reno.

The Pack hasn't had a lot of luck combining two nonconference road games in the same part of the country. This year, Nevada will play single non-conference games at the University of Akron in Ohio and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, which is about two hours from New Orleans. To go that distance for one game is brutal. You are essentially talking about missing three days of class if the game is played on a weekday.

Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281


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