NCAA Tournament expansion Additional bids benefit everyone

The NCAA basketball tournament should expand to 96 teams. It’s the obvious choice.Although it’s only in the discussion phase, the possible expansion from the traditional 65-team tournament to either 68 or 96 teams has its advantages.However, if the NCAA is going to complicate things, why bother with 68 teams? Go straight to 96.There are 347 Division I teams, only 18 percent of which receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.The expansion would allow for 28 percent of teams to receive bids, and between both the NCAA and NIT tournaments, 37 percent would receive bids.I understand the prestige that comes with a bid, but why not share that honor with more players? To the majority of players who don’t continue their career into the NBA, this is the highest honor they will receive.The expansion doesn’t undermine the exclusiveness of the tournament because it will still exclude much more than half of the teams.It would still place an emphasis on the regular season as well. The pressure during the regular season has room to intensify when an NCAA bid is on the line.Conference champions will be rewarded with automatic bids as usual.Then there are teams who are consistently offered a bid but, because of a mediocre season, they become a team on the bubble.A perfect example is Ohio State. The Buckeyes didn’t make it to the 2008 NCAA tournament but received a No. 1 seed in the NIT tournament.If you look at the recent winners of the NIT, they are almost always a powerhouse school. In the last 22 years, only twice has a team from a mid-major conference won the NIT.The expansion would ensure that teams that are able to compete at the same level are given that opportunity.Smaller conferences have teams worthy of a seed and the expansion allows them to have more than one team make it. Keeping the strongest schools together in the big tournament reserves the NIT for smaller schools that simply can’t compete with the big dogs.Sure, the expansion will create obvious underdogs, but it’s the underdogs that add to the “madness” that is March Madness. Without them, there wouldn’t be Cinderella stories.To the powerhouses of the NCAA, there’s no reason to shy away from the expansion. The competition will be nearly the same. If anything, those powerhouses will be protected from big upsets by a first or second round bye.In the event that the Big Ten expands as well, Ohio State has one more competitor in the race for the Big Ten title. For the growing sport and the growing conference, the expansion is inevitable.

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