96 Team NCAA Basketball Tournament


I keep hearing on the radio that the NCAA is garnering support from collegiate league and university presidents for its plan to implement a field of 96 teams for the March Madness tournament going forward.

I hate this idea…I HATE IT!

To me, its simply about a money grab and little else. How can introducing even more mediocrity into the field of what is now 64 make the tournament better?

Can someone in favor of this proposal (which sounds like its definitely going to pass muster) please make a compelling argument why this would remotely resemble a good idea?

The tournament is fine the way it is…don’t fuck with it, dumbass NCAA!

You know there are some proposing 4096 teams, right?

I don’t like it either, and our school could theoretically benefit from it (there have been at least two years recently when our team could have made a 96-team field, but was shut out of the 65-team field).

The purported claim behind this all is that there are more NCAA D-I teams so there have to be more D-I tournament entrants. It’s all bunk, of course: none of the new D-I teams have any real shot at winning a title, and they mostly serve as pre-conference cannon fodder for the big boys.

I’m not under any illusions that this is a move designed to allow more mediocre big-conference teams to get to the tournament. You are not going to see the #2 team from, say, the Metro Atlantic, or the #3 from the Horizon getting an at large–it’s going to be the #8 team from the Big 12, the #10 team from the ACC limping in with 16-15 records (and half of their win total coming from guarantee games against sub-300 RPI schools) getting in. What you’re going to see in the first round are more “thrillers” like Clemson-Missouri or Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech…not-so-great big conference teams whose coach is just happy to have “reached the NCAA tournament” on his resume. No David v. Goliath story, more like “Goliath’s 6th kid brother vs. Goliath’s 7th kid brother.”

Dull, dull, dull. It’s the play-in game writ large: instead of just one damp squib of a game between two teams very unlikely to get to the Final Four, you’ll now get a whole slate of them to start the tournament.

I also hate this idea. If anything, this is a reason to get rid of the NCAA. If it can manufacture money money, apparently, it’ll stop at nothing to do so.

If anything, can’t they just gradually increase it? Add three more teams, and have play-ins for all the #16 seeds. Add 4-8 more for play-ins for the #15 seeds. Every other year or so, you’ll see the list of “Last 4 Out” on Selection Sunday - and an argument can certainly be made that they’re just as good as #10 seed College State. But no argument can be made that either College State or We Just Missed It University would be able to make a competitive run for the NC game.

It’s great when Davidson and George Mason make the Elite Eight or even Final Four. Everyone loves a cinderella. But doesn’t it decrease those chances when you dilute the pool?

I can’t even begin to describe how profoundly I am against it - and I am the kind of fan who takes Thursday and Friday of the first weekend off from work every year. Especially when recently there have been too few deserving teams rather than too many, if anything. Ugh. Go back to 64 and have a constitutional amendment that it stays there forever!

It’s a greedy, shitty idea and I have never heard anyone support it. Adding the NIT field to the NCAA tournament would create a lot of unnecessary games between mediocre teams and make the tournament into a slog. For the most part you’d just be adding games between two teams that would just lose in the first round anyway. And I find it incredibly stupid that they’re considering this idea this year, when the tournament has been absolutely great. Why fuck this up?

I’m against it. I’m just curious if there’s anyone around who remembers when they changed from 32 to 64? I was too young. Of course they didn’t have message boards then, but I wonder if the sentiment was the same?

I’m against it, too. I said in another thread that the only way I could see it being somewhat better would be to have teams 33-96 play the first 2 days, and then teams 1-32 join in for the weekend to play the previous round’s winners. Then, the second weekend would be the round of 32 and the Sweet 16. Finally, have the Elite 8 go to the final city rather than a Final 4, and have games on Wed/Thur, Sat, and the final on Monday.

Very well said, my sentiments exactly. Seriously, does the NCAA want people to NOT watch the tournament anymore?


I have no idea what the NCAA is thinking WRT the integrity of the tournament, as in, it’s a reward for playing well. This will lessen the importance of regular season games, too.

Colin Cowherd on the radio the other day (who can be quite a blowhard) likened the idea to the gradual, inexorable “pussification” of society at large, a society where “everyone’s a winner, nobody’s a loser”…I think I agree with that.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, lets just not even keep score anymore like in 1st grade basketball so nobody ever can be called a “loser”!

Actually, the number was increased from 32 to 40 in 1979, then to 48 in 1980, 52 (including four play-ins) in 1983, 53 (a fifth play-in) the next year, 64 in 1985, and the present “64+1” in 2001.

I was in college from 1977-81, and remember discussing the tournament with a friend after the field was increased to 48. We agreed that the number of qualifying teams should be reduced back to 32, which would revitalize the NIT, a tournament already grappling with the question of its continued relevance amid such dilution of quality.

Maybe, but were the tournament increases from those days reflective of an increase in quality DIV I bball programs emerging/being added or was this like the current proposal that amounts to basically the NCAA tinkering with a good thing when they shouldn’t?

I think the field of 64 (okay, 65!) is perfect the way it is.

But who’d be left to play in the NIT?

I agree with the OP 100%.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume that with 96 teams, the 1-8 seeds in each region would have a first-round bye?

So we’d have 64 teams fighting for the 32 spots that are now the 9-16 seeds. 32 (sorry, 31) of those teams wouldn’t have otherwise been in the dance.
SO… if we figure on a handful of upsets in the first round, which as someone mentioned is really little more than a bunch of glorified play-in games, that means that by the round of 64, the bottom half of the field will be weaker than before, meaning fewer upsets going forward and ultimately a less exciting tourney.

Yep. Dumb.

I’m not strongly in favor of the expansion, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.

First, the reality is that the vast majority of the teams in a 64-team tournament have no chance to win. There are maybe 12-15 teams that have a realistic chance. As it stands, the lowest seed to win was a #8. That being said, being against expansion due to a lack of competitive balance is bad argument. There is little of that now. We could eliminate 32 teams now, and still nearly guarantee a similar result. At best, those bottom 32 teams are only involved in order to trip up higher ranked team that didn’t come to play, or suffered too many injuries.

Second, there is more competition in the middle and lower end of the pack because those schools aren’t as reliant on the one-and-done players, enabling them to build a decent team over time. While there is still little doubt that a #1 team overall will lose to a #16 (64th overall), under the new system, that #16 team might have a shot against someone closer to their skill level.

Third, there needs to be some punishment for big schools avoiding the mid-majors and small schools during the regular season in order to pad their records. A larger tournament is a small step towards rectifying that. How many big schools do you think UNI will play next year? Those teams will avoid teams like that as if they were the plague. It’s only in the NCAA tournament that we can be sure that a coach cannot duck those teams.

Fourth, a 96-team tournament could easily arranged, giving the top 32 teams a bye. This makes the tournament less dependent on external ranking, and more about play on the court. Consider the difference between being ranked #8 instead of #7 in today’s tournament. The #8 seed not only has to (likely) play the #1 team in the second round, but they also have to play a more difficult #9 seed in the 1st round. Historically, #9 seeds beat #8 seeds more often. 8’s win 45% of the time, 7’s win 61% of the time. A similar disparity exists between all the rankings. Historically, a #16 has a 0% win percentage, whereas a #15 seed has ~5%.

How fair it it that the powers that be can factor into your tournament success that much? By expanding, you don’t completely eliminate the problem, but you can mitigate it a lot. For example, you can have a provisional ranking for the 64-team play-in round which is modified by your actual success in the first game. So if the 96th overall team beats the 33rd ranked team in the first round by 10 points, you can alter their ranking so that they can be ranked relative to the performance of their peers during that first round. This way, they won’t have to play the #1 overall team. Like many things in life, lowering the barrier of entry actually increases the quality of the successful teams, while resting more heavily on actual performance, not external (biased) expectations.

Fifth, the tournament gives exposure and name-recognition to schools that would have otherwise never had it. I would bet more people know Gonzaga, Butler, and Xavier because of their tournament success than for any other reason. Regardless of how much importance you feel sports should get, it’s a good thing when people know about schools because it leads to more students, better resources, and more money. Duke, a great school in its own right, might not be Duke without their basketball team. The same goes for the schools in mentioned above. I would bet far more people are looking into applying at Cornell now that they have been in the national spotlight. The money the school gets, as a result of that, may mean they can accept 4 more med school students, secure more favorable loans for a new dorm, attract greater alumni donations, or provide scholarships for a few promising poor kids. The publicity the smaller schools get is invaluable, and leads to actual positive academic changes.

Lastly, if you step back and look at the tournament, the reason we include all these “Cinderellas” is because we want to see more basketball, and we want to include various schools in on the fun and spirit of the game. I had friends in the Hampton University band who witnessed HU’s basketball team beat Iowa State to secure their only NCAA win; one of the few times a #15 has beaten a #2. The actual impact of that game was practically nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it meant a great deal to the school, the students, and everyone involved.

To them, it was a miracle; one of the greatest experiences of their lives. They knew going in that there was no chance they would ever win the whole thing. Their expectations were modest, mostly going for the experience and to see basketball played at such a high level. When comes down to it, that’s what this tournament is about. Yes, the NCAA wants money, but it isn’t just a money grab. They could be like football, and have a limited number of primetime bowl games if that were the case.

As many problems as there are with the idea, I can only get so riled up about a change that allows more people to have the experience my friends had, gives more people a chance to have their schools in the spotlight, and allows schools to make money that can hopefully go to improving the education experience.

Well thought out reply, brickbacon, and exactly what I was looking for.

I don’t think I’m qualified to really refute a lot of that, can anyone else?

Apparently, this didn’t post when I thought it did, and brickbacon seems to have covered some of the same ground…

The NCAA owns the NIT, so it’s not unlikely that there would be no more NIT. The NCAA also instituted the NIT rule that accepts all regular season conference champions, so my (uninformed) guess would be that this rule would be transferred to the NCAA tournament. The NCAA tournament would become (current NCAA) + (current NIT). If I count correctly, there are 18 non-BCS teams in the NIT, although some (Memphis jumps out) aren’t exactly small-time programs.

I’m in the minority here. I’m actually in favor of the move, and not just because I cheer for a perennial bubble team in Minnesota. I love upsets (and I’m really enjoying this year’s tournament). I think there will be a number of opening round upsets and the quality of the #13-16 seeds will improve, so even the top for seeds will have more difficulty making it past their first game. This is not a bad situation in my eyes.

On preview, I see Wheelz say that the bottom of the field will be weaker. I don’t thinks this will be true, because the top twelve seeds in the NIT are definitely better teams than the bottom twelve (thirteen) seeds in the NCAA, and the better NIT teams will be the ones sitting in seeds 13-16, not a team with a sub-.500 record, as has happened in the past.

Expansion of the tournament was driven before by the great teams that were left out of the tournament. When Maryland lost to NC State in the 1974 ACC Tournament, this drove the NCAA to expand to allow more than 1 team for a conference.

When there was 32 teams, they limited it to 2 teams per conference. I remember Purdue being denied a bid in 1979 after finishing in a 3-way tie for the Big Ten title. Even with 48 teams, there were many automatic bids for the small conferences. The complaint of the big schools were always “These aren’t the 48 best teams.”

With 65 teams, and with teams finishing 5th and 6th in conferences making the tournament, that complaint isn’t as valid. There’s always bubble teams that will complain. But even now, teams that are barely .500 in their conference that make the field.

Does anyone have any projections on which teams would theoretically make it? Say for this year for example. If it would get into teams that are under .500 then no way.

According to Wikipedia, no NIT team has ever had a sub-.500 record. So if the field is NCAA + NIT, no additional sub-.500 teams are likely to be added. But keep in mind that there have been a handful of sub-.500 teams to win their conference tournament and still make the field.