Expanding NCAA Tournament Field is good for basketball

Expanding NCAA Tournament Field is good for basketball


Expanding NCAA Tournament Field is good for basketball


Brownell, ACC explain how their proposal to add four teams is not about them  

There is a reason why the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball coaches sent a proposal last month to the NCAA to expand March Madness, and it is not as self-serving as some might want basketball fans to believe.

Clemson head basketball coach Brad Brownell and ACC Commissioner John Swofford explained to The Clemson Insider the conference’s thought process in the NCAA looking at adding four teams to the tournament field, expanding it from the current 68 teams to 72.

The ACC coaches’ thought process into the proposal centers around the fact there are currently 351 schools that play Division I college basketball. There are 99 more schools that play basketball at the highest level than football, and 53 more than baseball.

“Part of the rational is we just keep adding more and more Division I teams to basketball,” Brownell said. “We are at 350 now, or whatever it is. Everyone thinks if we get four more bids it is going to go to an ACC school or whatever, like it is all self-serving. It might, but at the same time there has been a lot of talk about a lot of the mid-majors kind of being left out a little bit. I’m sure a couple of those bids would go to those schools.”

Parity in college basketball is as big as it ever has been. Mid-major schools, especially those that do not have football teams are pumping more and more money into their programs so they can compete with Power 5 schools.

“There are more and more schools putting money into college basketball and that has happened over the last ten to fifteen years,” Brownell said. “It has made it more challenging to get in (the tournament) because there are just more and more people, especially schools that do not have football that can put a lot of money into basketball and do.

“They have unbelievable facilities and play games on television and pay their coaches well and travel on private plans and do all the things that you want to do in order to have a good product. It has made getting into the tournament very difficult because there are just more and more of us.”

The ACC’s thought process is not to change the format of the tournament. They still want to keep it in the same three weekends, but why not add a little more of a west coast opening-round scenario where a few more teams get in and someone who plays out there has a little easier way to travel.

“We wanted to put that out there and will to see if there is an appetite for that at this point and time,” Swofford said. “We sort of looked at it as adding another first four, if you will, that can have geographic implications … one being probably in Dayton, where it has been, in the eastern part of the United States and then the other probably in the western part of the United States.”

Though the ACC and other Power 5 conferences can possibly benefit with four more teams added to the field, it also can benefit the mid-majors because it gives them an opportunity to get a few more schools in as well. Every year a ranked mid-major team who rolled through its conference during the regular season, but loses in its conference tournament is left out of the NCAA Tournament, this is another opportunity for that team to get in the field.

“There are some advantages for those guys to want to see that kind of format as well,” said Brownell, who coached at two mid-major schools before coming to Clemson. “It’s a thought that it is not just self-serving for Power Five schools, but there can be some benefits to a lot of different people. The biggest thing was not changing the nature of the tournament itself. It was keeping it in the three weekend format that we all love as March Madness.”

Swofford admits expanding the tournament field can potentially benefit the ACC in some years, such as last season when Notre Dame was one of the first four teams that just missed the cut.

“There are always going to be teams just out of whatever the number is that don’t get in and we certainly realize that and respect that, but there are so many good teams out there,” Swofford said. “Syracuse is a great example. They came in a few years ago and they went all the way to the Final Four. We will see what the reaction is and how much support we get for it.”

The most important point Brownell gave was the fact it is a way to reward more student athletes who have worked so hard to put themselves in a position to make the tournament.

“There is so much parity that it is extremely difficult to choose and that is not going to get any easier,” the Clemson coach said.  “This is a way to reward the student athlete for the tournament experience. It may just be a start in the First Four or whatever they want to call it, but you still have the opportunity to go even further and giving those kids that experience is something we think is a good thing.”

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