Sports Columnists Rejoice Over NCAA's Slight Expansion

68 teams is a lot better than 96

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Rumors the NCAA was planning to expand March Madness from 65 to 96 teams made sports columnists irate at the possible dilution of a tried-and-true tournament. Their dread turned to surprise when it turned out the tournament would only grow to 68 teams--a minuscule change that sports pundits could abide. The new agreement includes a joint deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting that will allow all March Madness games to be broadcast live nationwide, which moved relieved commentators to heap praise on the NCAA for a rare positive announcement.

  • A Win-Win Decision  Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn sighs with relief at the similar feel of the new tournament setup. "The NCAA did the right thing," he states. "While I'd prefer a pure, 64-team format without play-in games, 68 teams is immensely more palatable than 96." Add a new television deal that means "fans will be getting a better tournament experience," and Winn's takeaway is "the sanctity of the NCAA tournament has been preserved for the time being, and that's something to celebrate."
  • For Once, Money Didn't Talk  "Shockingly, common sense won out over the almighty dollar," marvels Fox Sports's Jeff Goodman. "There's no need for a full-blown expansion. Other than maybe returning to the 64-team format, this was the ideal solution." For once, Goodman notes, the NCAA's decision did not revolve around March Madness's bottom line. 
There were questions asked to the networks and NCAA about how the revenue is split. No one cares.

The bottom line here is that the integrity of the NCAA tournament hasn't been compromised, fans will get an opportunity to see all the games and the regular season will still have some meaning.
  • Keep Up the Good Work, NCAA  After admitting she was wrong to preemptively condemn the NCAA for a 96-team tournament, ESPN's Dana O'Neil suggests another positive step. "While the NCAA is riding the good-decision train, might we pose that the people in Indianapolis pay the goodwill forward even further by making the bubble teams play the real bubble games?" she asks, arguing at-large teams, not small-conference champions, should have to play an extra game. "Why not make the teams that didn't earn an automatic bid and whose résumés were only marginally good enough to warrant a trip out of basketball purgatory (the NIT) play their way into the real field?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.