Expanding the NCAA basketball national tournament would serve no purpose other than to water down the talent with teams that have no business being there in the first place.
The March Madness tournament exists to determine a national champion. To my knowledge, there has never been a question at the conclusion of the March Madness Tournament as to who the “real” national champion is. To the contrary, the tournament already provides a definitive process where the champion can be crowned with no question as to the team’s legitimacy.
Want proof? Take on this little Sports Debates Challenge – Try to genuinely convince just ONE person that Nicholls State SHOULD have been invited to the March Madness tournament last year, that they were LEGITIMATELY worthy of consideration as one of the best teams in the country, and that they would have beaten North Carolina in the tournament if they squared off. I’ll even get you started with a little help – Nicholls State won 20 games last year, but Wisconsin and Arizona only won 19 games each, yet both the Badgers AND the Wildcats received at-large bids.
Any luck? I didn’t think so!
The reason you cannot win that argument is because the notion that a school like Nicholls State deserved to be in the national tournament last year is absurd. Yet, Nicholls State is precisely the caliber of team that would be added to the national tournament if the pool of competitors is expanded.
Does that mean that schools like Nicholls State should automatically be excluded from the national championship tournament? Of course not! Every single one of the 347 teams that participate in NCAA Division I basketball ALREADY has an opportunity to compete for the national championship. That’s right, unlike college football, where some schools can literally play through a perfect season and STILL be excluded from consideration for a national championship opportunity, EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL from Air Force to Youngstown State (there are no schools that start with ‘Z’) in Division I college basketball has a real and legitimate opportunity to play for the national championship – win and you’re in!
Each of the 33 conferences in Division I are awarded an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, equaling 33 invitations which are given to the schools that win conference championships. If Nicholls State won the Southland Conference Tournament last year, they WOULD have been invited to the dance.
That leaves 32 additional ‘At-Large’ invitations which are awarded to those 32 teams that did not win a conference tournament, but still performed well enough to have earned an opportunity for a ‘second chance’ at the crown.
Those 65 teams are then ranked from 1-65, and accordingly seeded into four different brackets. That means that the teams which earned a ranking from 61-65 are the ‘worst’ teams in the tournament, and are subsequently placed as the 16th seeds in their respective brackets (with the 64th and 65th ranked teams first meeting in a play-in game).
Fact: No team that has been ranked as a 16th seed has EVER won a game in the national basketball tournament!
If the “worst” teams (ranked 61 through 65) currently participating in the tournament have NEVER won a game, how could it happen with the teams ranked from 66 through 96?!
Populating that 66-96 range would be a combination of Mid-Major programs that failed to win any big games (including their own conference tournament, as well as games against Major conference members), and the last place teams of Major conferences who already had AMPLE opportunity to prove their worth against those top programs, but failed in the attempt. Those teams had their chance to prove they were worthy of consideration, and were unable to meet the task.
Their performances simply do not warrant any consideration for the tournament. Nicholls State, a Mid-Major, could not even cut it among the ranks of McNeese State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Another example is the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team that finished 2009 with a 10th place finish in the Big East thanks to an 8-10 conference record, and an 18-14 overall record. The Bearcats lost to teams such as Louisville, Pitt, Villanova, Connecticut, and Marquette, along with a loss to DePaul in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Do the Bearcats really belong in the national tournament competing AGAIN against many of those exact same teams?
The system today is fair, and it works. The schools that win their conference championships will go on to compete on the national stage along with those programs that proved throughout the rigorous regular season that they, too, are among the best in the nation. Although there will always be four or five “snubbed” schools that were also worthy of consideration, opening the floodgates to 33 additional teams in order to allow those few snubs into the tournament is not the answer.