Madness needs not be extended beyond 65


Explain to me again why expanding the NCAA tournament is a good idea.

Because it’s not. Plain and simple, it just doesn’t make any sense.

There are those who say more is always better. But when it comes to the tournament, less is more.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to prove that the current format is golden. There are 65 teams, and almost all have a legitimate shot of winning a game in the tournament.

Robert Morris (No. 15) nearly beat Villanova. Ohio (No. 14) toppled Georgetown. Cornell (No. 12) shot the lights out on its way to the Sweet 16. And of course, Northern Iowa (No. 9) shocked the world, stunned Kansas and might not be done yet.

As Kevin Garnett might say, anything is truly possible. It’s only a matter of time until a No. 16 takes out a No. 1.

But it has taken a while to get here.

The tournament started with eight teams and eventually expanded to 32 teams in 1975. By 1979, it was at 40.

Through 1984, it expanded three more times to 53 before moving to a 64-team format in 1985.

And for 25 years, we’ve been at that level (except for, of course, the addition of a 65th team for the play-in game).

But again, it has taken a quarter of a century or so for the lowest seeds to gain respect. It took a very small number of Ali Farokhmaneshes and a few years of Gonzaga as Cinderella to prove that anybody can win on any night in the tournament.

Sure, we were shocked when the Big Red took out Temple and Wisconsin. We were truly stunned when Farokhmanesh buried that 3-pointer and beat the Jayhawks.

But it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. We’ve come to accept the fact that those things can — and do — happen in March.

So what will happen if the field expands to 96? How long will it take for us to truly respect No. 24 seeds? Another 25 years or longer?

Won’t the tournament be watered down when the 12th-place Big East team is a No. 20 seed and the third-place Great West team is a No. 23?

Yes, it will. We’ll yawn as the first round features more blowouts than anybody wants to see.

Let me remind you that only four No. 15 seeds have ever actually beaten a No. 2, and a few more have come close. So what makes you think a No. 23 can step in and do the same?

Sure, the names of Bryce Drew and Farokhmanesh have gone down in history for some of the greatest shots of all time.

But they’re rare as it is, so will putting more teams in the tournament really give us more magical moments?

Probably not.

And then, of course, what happens to the National Invitation Tournament? It’s almost as old as the NCAA tournament, and it too has a great tradition.

It’s a 32-team tournament that weaves its way through various campuses across the country before finishing in Madison Square Garden, one of the most storied venues in sports.

But a 96-team tournament expands the NCAA field by 31, robbing the NIT of about 97 percent of its field (for those of you keeping score at home).

That gives us a watered-down NCAA tournament and a watered-down NIT. Exciting, right?

So as we march toward April 5 and the national title game, take a few minutes along the way to ask yourself: Would expanding the tournament really make it better?

A lot of signs make it seem like the answer is no.

“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Grant at tunkel@usc.edu.