It’s not surprising the Atlantic Coast Conference, with the urging of its men’s basketball coaches, is recommending the NCAA national championship basketball tournament field be expanded by four teams to a field of 72. The ACC will propose NCAA legislation to do so.
Additionally, the conference will be asking for a wider lane, a longer three-point shot and a 20-second (instead of 30 seconds) reset of the shot clock after an offensive rebound.
This is interesting stuff. The lane change, the extra three-point distance, and the 10-fewer seconds will affect the way the game is played; the four-team expansion is for more league teams making the tournament and the ACC wanting more money for more teams making it to the tournament.
Nine ACC teams — Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Syracuse — made the 2018 field; with four more teams, there’s a good chance Notre Dame and Louisville — if not both, maybe one — would have been invited instead of being sent to the NIT. Boston College would have been a bubble team, in the first eight out.
In advocating for the four-team expansion, ACC Commissioner John Swofford gave no creative reasoning but did address a logistics question of where the four extra games would be played. He suggests a western site to go along with the traditional location of Dayton. He didn’t address television, though, with TruTV showing the Dayton games, TBS or TNT would most-likely televise the other four games also played Tuesday and Wednesday.
With the four-team proposal, maybe the ACC coaches are on the right track, but the suggestion falls short of creativity and weighs heavily on the league showing a smug sense of superiority, basically suggesting that two of the four new spots would go to the ACC. The other major conferences might feel the same way. The mid-major conferences would see an opportunity to include more from that level. Let the debate begin.
Can you imagine what Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas would have to say when one or more of their favorites are passed over for one of the new four? Vitale would want more mid-major teams; Bilas would want all post-season players to be paid appearance fees. Blah, blah, blah!
So, I ask, why stop at four more? Why just 72 teams in the NCAA basketball tournament? Why not 256 teams? It’s just two more game-days which would whittle the 256 to 128 and then to 64. Of course, that would probably mean expanding play for another week and playing games on the home court of the top 64 teams.
CBS would have to cut in its Masters tournament television schedule even though the semifinals would be played on the Saturday night of the third round of the Masters and the finals on Monday. Jim Nantz would miss either Saturday at the Masters or the NCAA semifinals. In either case, that might be a good thing.
Conferences could drop league tournaments to make room for more NCAA teams, moving the NCAA tournament back a week. Maybe expanding to 256 games and dropping the ACC tournament might mean more regular season league games since every team would get in to the NCAA tournament. It would be nice to see the ACC play a truly balanced home-and-home schedule of 28 ACC games for each of the 15 members.
But, since neither the 256 nor the 28 is going to happen any time soon, here’s my proposal: instead of four additional teams add 28 teams and expand to 96 from 68. Play 16 games on Tuesday of the first week and 16 games on Wednesday, eliminating 32 teams. Play these games at the eight sub-regional sites, four games at each location. Tuesday winners advance to Thursday games and Wednesday winners to Friday games, all at the sites of those first games.
As far as TV is concerned, CBS and Turner Broadcasting could make it work. ESPN might like to take over those 32 games in two days, meaning more bucks for the NCAA and its member partners.
And, isn’t it all about the money anyway? Isn’t that really why the ACC coaches have asked for four more teams in the NCAA field?
Jim Pomeranz is a writer from Cary, N.C.