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NCAAB: The 96-Team Bracket Will Kill The Tournament’s Opening Days

April 15, 2010

I wish the headline was a bit of personal hyperbole, but I don’t know how else I can really react to seeing this atrocity to the right. (Click here to see Joe Lunardi’s first pass at a full 96-team bracket.)

I don’t want to overreact and say the NCAA Tournament as a whole will be ruined by such a bracket, but I can say this: the first days will be destroyed. Check out some of these outstanding matchups in one region alone. Alabama-Iowa State, ODU-Morgan State, Gonzaga-Ohio, Arizona State-Saint Louis, New Mexico-Pacific, Murray State-Virginia, Virginia Tech-Coastal Carolina, Michigan-Texas Tech. These are the kind of middling games most fans skip if there’s good scripted TV on in the middle of February, not the kind of games you skip two days of work for.

In this scenario, the first round has been reduced to NIT scraps and low-major conference winners. I remember our own Dan Shanoff lamenting that the only thing stopping people from caring about NIT games was the fact that they weren’t called NCAA games. After looking at these games, I could not disagree more. My Give-A-Damn meter isn’t even making the faintest blip for any game in the first round that doesn’t involve my alma mater. After an entire season of trying to watch the best teams rise to the top, I don’t want to sit through another two days of games featuring teams that never quite got it together.

Don’t get me wrong; there are good game starting in the second round, you know, that traditional round of 64. It will be sad when they likely announce 96-team tournament expansion on April 29 and I’m forced to not really care about the first two days of the NCAA Tournament.

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