The Case For 96: Why The NCAA Tournament Should Expand

March Madness. The two words that have brought more anxiety this time of year for college basketball fans than three other words…… Daylight Savings Time.

Now while all the citizens in the states of the United States do not observe Daylight Savings, most Americans (as shown by the Nielsen Ratings) do observe March Madness. For college basketball fans, this is one of the most amazing times of the year…… closely akin to Christmas.

This year in college basketball has been very crazy with it’s own “madness” to say the least. There has been no one king to hold the throne consistently at the top of the rankings kingdom. There have been many military coups though if you may call them that. Coups where a team takes the throne at number one and is then taken over by another. That has been the constant theme for this year.

Now as we head into the second week of March, the real judgement week begins. It’s the final week of the basketball season for some and the beginning of conference tournaments for others.

One of the more controversial and glaring topics that usually begins the NCAA Tournament Selection Show are the teams of 68 that are chosen to fill out the brackets for this grand event.

There have been those seasons of college basketball past where the rankings held to the status quo for the majority of the year. But now in just recent times we have began to see the parity of the era with this generation of players with the “one and dones” filtering into college basketball’s royalty teams while the mid majors and those who are usually not highly ranked are the teams who are the veterans to watch for come tournament time.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock and you are a true college basketball fan, you will have noticed that now the mid majors and the unknowns are starting to hold down spots in the Top 25.

For instance, who would have thought teams like Dayton or San Diego State would be in a top five spot or top ten spot while a North Carolina can’t even find a spot in the rankings at all?

This is why I feel that since the inception of the field of 68 and the cementing of the one and dones into college basketball that the NCAA Tournament should evolve, change some protocols and expand the tournament to 96 teams.

People may think this to be a crazy thought…. but is it really? For one, how many people during the selection are arguing over this team or that team being snubbed? The critics may say, “But teams always get a chance to show what they could have been by participating in the NIT.” Well if that’s the case…. that would be like me and about 67 other guys having a chance to go on a date with Miss America and then some guy saying sorry you aren’t good enough for the field to win her heart…. but as a parting gift you can try for the hand of Miss Tobacco Festival 2020. If you are a true competitor and you have the credentials to try for the crown, why shouldn’t you have that shot?

Another factor is strength of schedule. Not all the teams are going to get a shot at the tournament simply because of people “discriminating” against them for who they play. Well I hate to tell people this but some of the teams from the all powerful Atlantic Coast Conference may not get as many teams in as the Atlantic 10 Conference this year just because the Atlantic 10 has some very strong veteran teams…. unlike the ACC. For me, that’s a great thing. Reward the teams who compete and compete at a high level.

This is why I have come up with the “Case For 96.”

In my NCAA Tournament, there would be 96 teams. Of those 96 teams, the first 32 would be the regular season conference champions. Each of these first 32 regular season conference champions would earn a first round bye. I mean seriously….. you bust your tail all season long for like 30 some games only to find out at the end of the regular season that winning your conference means about as much as that dump you took after eating the bad Chinese food and flushing it down the toilet………. and it’s the bad Chinese food going down into the sewer that is on the same level playing field as you. Yes….. that’s a very defeated feeling.

To me if you work that hard to gain first place in your conference during the year, you need to be rewarded for it. So for me, the first 32 teams would be awarded first round byes and the committee would also rank them in eight tiers. Four number one seeds, four number two seeds, etc, etc,….. you get the picture. Also, to make sure that one bracket is not as loaded as another committee members will be required to put all the strong powers of the conferences on East And West sides as well as North and South sides. So if the regular season ended today, you might have a tournament that looks like this with strictly conference regular season champions:

#1 seeds: Dayton, Kansas, Gonzaga, Kentucky

#2 seeds: San Diego State, Stephen F Austin, East Tennessee State, Northern Iowa

#3 seeds: Vermont, Tulsa, Florida State, Seton Hall

#4 seeds: Liberty, Eastern Washington, Michigan State, Hofstra

#5 seeds: Wright State, Yale, UC Irvine, Murray State

#6 seeds: Winthrop, North Texas, Merrimack, Colgate

#7 seeds: New Mexico State, North Dakota State, UCLA, Akron

#8 seeds: Siena, North Carolina Central, Prairie View, Little Rock

These teams would be your top 8 seeds for each region. There would be a tournament committee to decide what seed each of these conference champions should be.

Rule #1 – Regular season conference champions will gain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will be seeded according to the tournament committee in 8 tiers of four seeds each.

Now the fun part……….. with some protocols.

Rule #2 – If during the course of the conference tournament that the conference champion of the regular season does or does not makes it to the conference championship game, the following protocols will be put into place:

a. If the conference tournament champion is not the regular season champion then that team will also gain a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Here is the most interesting part of my idea…..

b. If the conference champion is also the regular season conference champion, then that conference will put forth its choices for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament as voted on by the coaches of that conference by ranking the teams of that conference themselves in a private vote. Those choices of the coaches during the private vote will go to the national committee to see if they warrant an at large bid.

Talk about some excitement taking place!

Rule #3 – Sixty four teams will play a first round game at the committee’s pre-determined destinations on a Thursday or Friday. The 32 winners of those first round games will then proceed on to the second round to take on the 32 first round bye teams in the round of 64 on a Saturday or Sunday.

Rule #4 – After teams finish up the round of 64 on that weekend, they will move on to games the next week being played in which the games set for that following Thursday and Friday will whittle down to 32 and then on Saturday and Sunday will whittle down to 16.

Rule #5 – After teams finish up the round of 32 to 16 teams, they will during that next following weekend whittle down the tournament from 16 to 8 teams on the next Thursday and Friday and then from 8 to four teams the following Saturday and Sunday. Then finally on a Super Tuesday in April, we will crown a national champion!

I feel that this tournament format will give many worthy and deserving teams their great opportunity to show why they are worthy of going through the grind and giving of themselves the chance to be called a national champion.

People may say you are watering down the tournament field but even better……. are we really? If we are choosing the teams and rewarding them with the best chances of winning a championship because that they have been given their chance to fight it out with great reason, I believe that we will come up with a very very great tournament format and we will only enhance the great NCAA Tournament to an even higher level….. for the players and coaches… and the fans as well.