It lasted nearly three weeks – with countless brackets being busted along the way – but the NCAA tournament ended Monday with Kansas’ 75-68 overtime win against Memphis.
This year’s 65-team tournament was full of captivating storylines and culminated with one of the most exciting finals in recent memory. Despite the intrigue, however, some coaches would like to expand the annual tournament to as many as 128 teams because they feel that too many high-quality teams are being left out.
Maryland head coach Gary Williams – whose team went 18-14 with an 8-8 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference (the conference in which North Carolina and Duke are competing) – did not make the 65-team field for the NCAA tournament.
“It used to be if you go 8-8 in the ACC, you’re in,” Williams told the Daily Orange. “But that doesn’t hold true anymore.”
In the Big East, Syracuse finished the season 21-14 with a 9-9 conference record. Both Maryland and Syracuse had to settle for berths in the National Invitational Tournament. It may seem like those teams are being snubbed, but that’s the harsh reality of sports.
The NCAA tournament invites 65 teams. Coaches drill fundamentals and the importance of each game into their players’ brains throughout the season. If – when it’s all said and done – a team is not selected as one of the top 65 teams in the nation, that’s just too bad.
Every year teams are snubbed from the tournament, and every year different coaches throw their fits and sing the praises of their squads that were almost good enough. Because of the nature of the postseason, not every team is going to get in.
Expanding the tournament would be boring. A 65-team, three-week-long tournament is enough, but expanding it – to include as many as 128 teams, as former Texas Tech coach Bob Knight suggested – would make it less interesting and, let’s face it, make filling out a bracket nearly impossible.
Under the current format, 65 teams have the opportunity to play for the biggest prize in college basketball. In college baseball, 16 teams advance to the College World Series. In college football, only two teams play for the biggest prize – the Bowl Championship Series National Championship – every season.
There are 334 schools with Division I basketball programs, and 65 have a shot to play for the NCAA title. An opportunity to play for a championship should be a reward for a season well-played – not handed to a team on a platter because a few disgruntled coaches didn’t get to add another appearance to their resumes.
According to the Orange, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has been one of the coaches trying to push the NCAA into expanding the tournament. He would like to see seven more teams added to the field of 65. Each of the four regions in the NCAA tournament would have a play-in game to determine its No. 16 seed.
While that seems like a much more moderate proposal, it still means that 72 teams will play for the NCAA Championship. Adding seven teams does not seem like a way to make the tournament more fair or more competitive – it seems like a way for the Big East to get a ninth team into the NCAA tournament.
If a basketball team does not make the NCAA tournament, at least it has the NIT to turn to. It is another postseason tournament, comprising teams that did not make it into the NCAA tournament’s 65-team field. Coaches know what they are playing for every season, and they should coach their teams accordingly.
It may seem harsh and, at times, unfair. But these teams are not in high school. There is no rule that says every team gets to play. If a team cannot earn a spot in a 65-team tournament, then it doesn’t deserve to play for a championship.