There is so much juicy goodness in John Feinstein’s latest whine about the coming expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that I hardly know where to start.
How about here?
… With 96 teams, the regular season is devalued because many mediocre teams will be rewarded with NCAA bids. If, as expected, regular season conference champions receive automatic berths, a lot of the magic of the conference tournaments in the so-called “one-bid” leagues will go away.
Nah, nah, nobody who’s in favor of a playoff thinks much of that devalue-the-regular-stuff thing anyway.
Well, then, what about this?
Look, this is about money and everyone knows it. Shaheen even made indirect reference to that when he talked about 88 other championships the NCAA conducts and the need to protect their financial futures. That protection comes from squeezing every possible dollar out of men’s basketball. It was almost comical when someone asked if expansion was being contemplated for the women’s tournament. The women’s tournament costs money, so it isn’t going to be expanded anytime soon.
We’re getting warmer now. This is, of course, the reason that any postseason format expands, as much as you “settle it on the field” folks would like to argue otherwise.
But any hope that Feinstein was going to remain intellectually consistent on this topic – a faint hope, to be sure – is dashed in his penultimate paragraph.
… The bottom line is, of course, the bottom line. The tournament is going to expand, “student-athletes” will miss more class time, there won’t be a football playoff, college basketball will still be a great game and the tournament itself will still be great fun, because it’s so good even the NCAA suits can’t destroy it.
Maybe he’ll sing a different tune when they expand to 128. Oh, and bonus points for the gratuitous college football reference, John. It’s hard to believe after reading the rest of your post that the BCS suits don’t jump up and institute a 16-school playoff tomorrow. Well played, sir.
UPDATE: Dan Shanoff is the anti-Feinstein (that’s a compliment, Dan). His reasons why the March Madness-expansion scare talk is overblown are coherent and sensible. Like this –
*”It devalues the regular season!” Actually, you’d have to say FURTHER devalues the regular season, because the ascension of the 64-team tournament devalued the regular season a long time ago.
The reality is that most fans don’t pay attention to college basketball until March anyway. And, aside from the die-hard fans who make up about 5 percent of the fans who follow March Madness, those that do tune in before March are watching marquee games between powerhouse teams whose inclusion in the NCAA Tournament field isn’t in doubt.
If anything, people watch before March to get a sneak peek of teams they should be betting on IN March. And with 32 more teams, that means that fans who want to know the field have to watch that much regular-season basketball. Meanwhile, the chance to earn a bye gets expanded beyond the four 1-seeds to the Top 32 teams in the country — something worth playing for in January and February.
(And, yes, there will still even be a “Bubble” — it just slides down the list. It is arguable whether the incessant Bubble talk is even good for the sport. And don’t argue about “quality”; the Bubble has never been about “good/bad” — just “in/out.”)
That’s not where I want college football going, though.