More problems with expanding the NCAA Tournament

Did I hear Dan LeBatard correctly yesterday on PTI? Apparently most coaches don’t like creating a playoff for college football, but they do like expanding the NCAA Tournament to grotesque levels.

Why? In college football, you can go .500, go to a bowl game, and save your job. In college basketball, it’s NCAA Tournament or bust – you have to be in the top 18% of teams in the country to save your job.

Here’s the thing: you may be able to go .500 and save your job, but that doesn’t mean anyone gives a bleep about your team. Most people only care about the undefeated and one-loss teams in the thick of the national championship hunt, and if they’re really diehard, the races at the top of the BCS conferences. Any smart playoff proposal will keep the bowls in some way, and it’s not like people care that much about the teams that wouldn’t be in the playoff anyway, so how exactly would it change the status quo?

And why shouldn’t college basketball be any different from college football, the NBA, or the NHL? Why shouldn’t the NIT, CBI, or CIT be enough for a coach to keep their job, and why shouldn’t merely making the NCAA Tournament be good enough for a coach to get a hefty extension?

You know what I think the problem is? I think the problem is that, unlike in college football, the mid-majors really are the majority. The BCS conferences really do select a third to a half of their teams to the NCAA Tournament as is, so in that sense, it makes sense for them to say “NCAA Tournament or bust”. In that sense, it’s heartening to see the number of at-large spots given to mid-majors double this year, even if it was only because the Pac-10 sucked. Improving parity will make the NCAA Tournament feel more special and give more respect to the NIT. Expanding the tournament, on the other hand, will only worsen and entrench the “NCAA Tournament or bust” dictum given to BCS-conference coaches, while making the tournament feel less special.

(It’ll also render schedule irrelevant. Am I really supposed to believe that the 32 teams just outside the NCAAs are dominated by major conference teams, but magically, there’s only one major-conference team in the next 32 and it’s from the Pac-10? Do we really want every Tom, Dick, and Harry that goes .500 to almost automatically get to the Big Dance?

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