When the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, there were 228 teams playing at the Division I level. That meant that about 28% of the teams playing made it into the Tournament.
This year, there are 347 teams playing Division I NCAA Men’s Basketball, a 52% increase over the the number playing in 1985. There are, however, still only 64 teams in the Tournament, meaning that only about 18% of the teams playing make it into the Tournament.
If you bump that number back up to 28%, the way it was when the field of 64 was launched, you’d have a field of 97 teams.
Most of the expansion talk at this point focuses on merging the current NCAA Tournament with the National Invitational Tournament (which is already owned and operated by the NCAA) to create a field of 96 teams, which would be achieved by going from one to 32 “play-in” games for the lowest ranked teams.
It makes perfect sense, and I’m all in favor of it. I’d certainly rather see more teams playing for the real title than what we have now, with three essentially meaningless post-season tournaments (NIT, CBI, CIT) competing (weakly) against the Big Show.
And to those who cry “Boo hoo, that would dilute the field,” I point out that yesterday there were ten matchups between Big Six schools and Mid-Majors, and the little guys won four of them, with the “mighty” Big East’s representatives losing to Ohio and Murray State, and barely squeaking out a win against Robert Morris.
It’s the little guys that bring the excitement. Let ’em play, I say!