When a franchise expands its brand, it normally results in massive gain. Just ask the CEOs of McDonalds, Ed Hardy and Best Buy.  Let’s look at the entity known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or the NCAA, shall we? In my opinion, it is responsible for birthing what has become the best playoff format in all of sports, in the form of the Division I Men’s basketball tournament.

The purpose of this playoff system is to insert the best college basketball teams and pair them off into sections of regions, having one chance per matchup to advance throughout the bracket until one earns the right to be called “National Champion”. Here’s a timeline of how the tournament blossomed into the iconic sports stage it is today:

1939-1950: the tournament opened with eight teams
1951-1952: 16 teams were seeded
1953-1974: featured anywhere between 22 and 25 teams
1975-1978: the country’s 32 best teams battled it out
1979: 40 teams were tournament eligible
1980-1982: the postseason fielded 48 teams
1983: 52 teams settled the score, which included four play-in games prior to the tournament
1984: a one game addition was made (53 teams in the bracket, including five play-in games
1985-2000: a 64-teamed bracket
2001-present- 65 teams where two of them open in a play-in game to determine who will the final open slot.

I rank this as the best playoff format in all of sports because teams have only one shot to advance throughout the postseason. The NFL operates under the same system, but with less teams. Then there is the element of upsets.  Who can forget Hampton University’s (a 15th seed) 2001 upset of the then second ranked Iowa State cyclones? How about the remarkable run of the 2005-06 George Mason Patriots? being 11th seed in the big dance, they beat Michigan State, North Carolina (then defending champions) and UConn to tie the 1986 LSU Tigers as the lowest seed to reach the Final Four. These are just a few examples of why the NCAA Tournament is fine as is. 

Recently, there has been talk of expanding the field to 96 teams which could take place as soon as 2011. If the NCAA goes through with this, two things will happen.  First, it will send the wrong message saying it is okay for some teams to work less than others to make it into the postseason. Seriously, who wants to see an 8-22 team, with a bottom-feeding strength of schedule, compete for the national championship? Finally, if the NCAA goes through with this expansion, it should change its name to the National Contradiction Athletic Association. Think about it! This is the same organization that will not implement a playoff system to determine college football’s true national champion in the interest of “keeping students out of school for an extended period of time.” I’m no mathematician, but wouldn’t additional basketball games keep students out of class for a substantial amount of time too?

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s call it what it is…greed. More games equal money! What good will it do if the product is rejected by the consumer?  Please keep the field as is!

By the way, I’m going with the Syracuse Orangemen (or is it Orange) to hoist up the championship trophy in center court on April 5th.

By Antoine Hoffman


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