Is there such a thing as too much Madness?
Everybody knows the feeling of that Sunday afternoon in March. The clock strikes 6, and you heard the CBS Sports NCAA Basketball theme: Da-da-da-da-da-dun-dun.
Then selection Sunday began… that next week, the rush to gather your friends, fill out brackets, and figure out which teacher or boss would let you follow the games in class or on job filled the entire country. Everyone united in the suspense and mystique of new matchups and old rivalries. It’s the magic of March Madness.
However, what we know now as the "field of 68" could change rather soon, as the powers that be battle to blow up the bracket.
SEC Comissioner Greg Sankey, currently the most powerful man in college sports, championed the expansion of the NCAA Tournament about five months ago, and ACC Commish Jim Phillips followed Sankey’s lead at ACC basketball Media Day.
"We have a compression that we have to address," Phillips said. "A lot of schools are spending a tremendous amount of money on sports, and not having the chance to access these championships."
On January 3, 2023, the NCAA released a report proposing that all college sports increase tournament capacity to 25%, meaning that at least 90 of the 358 schools in D1 college basketball would make a March appearance. But that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including Big Ten basketball analyst Stephen Bardo.
"Why would you mess up something that is perfect already? It was perfect at 64 [teams]," Bardo said. "If we expand the tournament, will we have UMBCs, George Masons, Saint Peters? Would we see these upsets and Cinderellas?"
Well there still would be upsets - that’s the nature of the game. Heat Check College Basketball writer Connor Hope says there might even be more based on a new tournament’s structure.
"I think it would increase the likelihood that they win a game," Hope noted. "Now, even the 16 seed, is going to be playing their first game against a nine seed instead of a one."
The eights and nines - Syracuse has been there before. The bubble, a constant topic of conversation in the 315, would also shift with a new tournament
"Your bubble is no longer going to be a Pitt, or Ohio State," Hope said. "The bubble becomes the mid-major teams instead of high-major teams."
The permutations and possibilities of a restructured are endless, but it all comes down to one thing, says CBS’s Adam Finkelstein. The almighty dollar.
"The economics of it, regardless of the theoretical, 'oh if VCU wasn't in the first four, they couldn't make their run.' That's not going to matter if it's bad for business," Finkelstein said. "If we've learned anything in recent years, it's that if it's good for business, it's going to happen."
"In order to keep the mystique of the NCAA tournament, and allow the mid-majors to get a share of it, while keeping the high-majors happy, I think expansion is inevitable," Hope said.
The college sports landscape is shifting, and March Madness is the latest thing that could change with it. But the tournament memories of magical runs, upset wins and national championships aren't going anywhere.