Going to 96 would weaken the field

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first_imgIf you thought your bracket looked bad this year, just wait until next year.Yes, it will be hard to beat the chaos of only one No. 1 seed making the Final Four and having a school that most people couldn’t locate on a map almost win the entire tournament. But if the tournament expands from 65 teams to 96, as is expected, prepare for real March Madness — and not the good kind.The tournament would become a cluttered mess. Imagine what the new bracket would look like and how difficult it would be to fill out. The teams that would earn byes would be at an heavy immediate advantage, greatly lowering the chance of any upset.I can only hope that someone is playing the ending of The Planet of the Apes at the NCAA headquarters to express what an awful move this would be. “You maniacs! You blew it up!”College basketball is plenty watered down as is. With the National Invitational Tournament and the College Basketball Invitational, the postseason feels a lot like “Everyone Gets a Trophy Day.”So why the need to bring a bunch of also-rans into the Big Dance? Surely no one could have watched the NIT final between Dayton and North Carolina and said, “If only we could see these teams playing in the real tournament.”Then it must be the same reason behind any NCAA decision: money.The New York Times said Tuesday that the cost of the broadcast rights to the NCAA tournament will explode from $320 million to $700 million annually for the next three years. Whether CBS retains the rights (the network can opt out of its deal this year) or ESPN jumps on board, the message is clear — the network airing the tournament needs to find a way to bring in a few extra bucks.So naturally, the solution to all of this is to mess with the product that is so universally loved.It’s kind of scary to think how much influence the television industry has when it comes to such important decisions. Maybe we’ll see a similar “everyone into the pool” strategy for the NBA playoffs. Because if there’s one thing we haven’t gotten enough of this year, it’s New Jersey Nets games.In place of the frantic first four days of the tournament we got this year, we’ll all be exposed to NCAA tournament light — now with no carbs or excitement. Teams like Arizona State and Mississippi State will get one last chance to remind us why they have no business being there in the first place.But worst of all, it will be even harder for teams like Butler to make deep runs in the tournament. Small conference schools will continue to be pitted against one another, and they’ll frequently have to play in the first round before facing a well-rested power.It doesn’t seem all that bad hypothetically. But would Northern Iowa have beaten Kansas if the 96-team format had been implemented this year and the Jayhawks had been coming off a bye? Many of these upsets will go by the wayside.Despite all the groaning, the NCAA will win out because sports fans will watch anything. And I mean anything.Every year, I tune in for the NBA draft lottery — an event in which suited team executives watch ping pong balls determine who gets the first pick in that year’s draft. I would like to say I’m being hyperbolic, but that’s exactly what happens.It’s arguably the Seinfeld of all sporting events — a show about nothing. But it has consequences, so I need to watch it. When you follow the Washington Wizards, it’s all you have.So there will be a sizable segment of sports fans who embrace this move by noting that it means more basketball. And even those of us protesting now will watch come next March. I won’t be happy about it, but I’ll tune in.But only because those ping pong balls don’t start flying around until May.“Tackling Dummy” runs Thursdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Michael at [email protected]last_img

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