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NCAA explores options for expanding the basketball tournaments

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | Current Events |

The NCAA officials have presented two models for expanding the basketball tournament to Division I conference commissioners. These models lay the framework for expanding the tournament to 72 or 76 teams. The models were introduced at the commissioners’ annual summer meeting by NCAA senior vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt and vice president for women’s basketball Lynn Holzman. Both options are an expansion from the existing 68-team. This change could be as soon as the 2025-26 season.

Arguments for expansion

There are many arguments for and against the expansion, which would add another First Four site. They include:

  1. Inclusivity: Expanding the tournament would allow more teams to participate, potentially giving lesser-known or lower-ranked teams a chance to compete nationally.
  2. Increased competition: With more teams, the competition could become more intense, potentially leading to more exciting games.
  3. Additional at-large bids: The expansion models propose additional at-large bids, which could benefit teams that performed well during the season but did not win their conference tournaments.

Arguments against expansion

As with anything involving change in the NCAA, there are vocal critics objecting to changes:

  1. Preservation of current format: Many fans and stakeholders believe that the current 68-team format is perfect and worry that expansion could dilute the tournament’s quality.
  2. Revenue concerns: More games would not necessarily mean more revenue. The NCAA’s TV contract ends after the 2032 tournament and will not change regardless of the field size. Adding the extra games would provide a minor cash boost via ticket sales and merchandise, but the pool of money used to pay out member schools and conferences would not change.
  3. Potential for weaker teams: The expansion could lead to weaker teams that wouldn’t be close to the tournament conversation in the current format finding themselves in the tournament bubble.

What’s going to happen

The discussions are ongoing, and any changes will be carefully considered to maintain the integrity and interest in the tournament. The NCAA has asked for feedback in recent months and will do so until it makes its decision. Its D-1 basketball committees also need to weigh in before the decision is final. If the men’s tournament expands, the women’s tournament will likely follow suit.

This is really nothing new

The men’s tournament has gradually expanded since its introduction in 1939 (there were eight teams). The most recent change was in 2011, when it inserted three more teams. In 2022, the women went to 68 teams from 64.

Watch this space for updates.