On March 31, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany proclaimed that the possibility of an expansion in the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament from 65 to 96 teams was “probable”. Since then, every talking head in the sports stratosphere (including us) have been debating the pros and cons of such a change ad ad nauseum. Many of us had been bracing ourselves for what would have accounted for an apocalyptic change in college basketball.
Today, the NCAA shocked the world when it announced that it will expand the NCAA tournament in 2011 by a whopping three teams from 65 to 68. The shocking part was not that the NCAA expanded. The shocking part that is that after all the talk, deliberation and speculation, only three additional spots have been created.
While many sportswriters across America have begun to let out a collective sigh of relief, we must selfishly ask ourselves the following question: What does this mean for William and Mary?
Quite honestly, nothing.
Whether you liked the initial 96-team proposal or not, it would have certainly have helped the College this past year. While the Tribe wasn’t quite good enough to punch its ticket to the dance under the 65 current 65 team system, almost all ESPN and Sports Illustrated bracketologists had them in under the 96 team system.
A 96-team expansion would have drastically improved the College’s chances— and those of other mid majors — of consistently making the tournament. Would 96 have been too many? Probably, but would it also have given William and Mary a legitimate shot at making the tournament every year? Yes, it would have, and for a school that has never made the dance in its 100 years in the league, that has to count for something.
While the NCAA might trumpet its new expansion as a way for new teams to enter the dance, the chances of that promise actually being fulfilled are slim. In my opinion, those three spots were created so the ACC could get 7 teams in, and the Big East could get 16; not so the CAA could get two.
While I think that the NCAA made the right decision, as a fan of William and Mary athletics, I’m a little disappointed. But, when (or if) the College makes the tournament, I think that we will all be glad that they would be able to preserve their integrity and say that they were good enough to make it with 68 teams, and didn’t have to rely on an additional 31 spots to get in.