If you don’t think March Madness is big enough, a couple of lead-in games aren’t going to fix the problem:
I think expansion is a good idea, but not an incremental add-a-few-play-in-games type of expansion, because I don’t think most people think of the play-in games as being a part of the “real” tournament. I think if you’re going to expand, you go ahead and add another round of play. That doesn’t mean you have to go to the next power of 2, but you could easily accomodate 80 or 96 teams by starting the tournament on Tuesday and using byes. With 80 teams, you have 32 of them play for the right to be seeded 13 through 16; with 96 teams, the top 32 get a bye and the rest play for the 9 and lower slots. We already have 64 teams playing a game over the course of two days, so this is logistically possible. It might mean compressing or shifting the regular season and/or conference tournaments [Emphasis added.], or it might mean accepting the fact that March Madness will permanently bleed into April, just as the World Series now crosses into November. Either way, it can be done.
Some of his reasoning is outright questionable – don’t count the NIT, since it’s a “consolation prize”, in doing the math on postseason participation, but do count all of the bowl games? – but at least he’s clear on what he values in a tourney:
You may say that any expansion would just be adding teams that have no legitimate shot at the championship. I’d say that’s true, though as George Mason reminded us last year, having a low seed is not a bar to making it to the Final Four. But if the tournament were just about crowning a champion, we might as well shrink it, for surely in any given year only a handful of teams have a real chance to win it all. But who wants a basketball version of the BCS? [Emphasis added.] What makes the Tournament so special isn’t just the finals but the opening rounds, with its upsets and Cinderellas and anything-can-happen attitude. Expanding the Tournament gives a few more teams the chance to experience that thrill. Given that there’s room to expand within the size of the NCAA basketball field, I say that’s a worthwhile reason. What do you think?
I think that people who believe that a D-1 football playoff will be held to eight or sixteen schools are kidding themselves. Just like they’re kidding themselves about the impact an expanded playoff will have on the regular season.