The Wessex Wire

The Student News Site of West Essex Regional High School

The Wessex Wire

The Wessex Wire

COMMENTARY: Expanding March Madness would ruin the NCAA

The most recent trend among all major American sports tournaments is to expand the playoffs to include more teams and games. With the NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA Football all adding more teams to their playoffs, the next sport to consider this change is NCAA Basketball. But overhauling the 68 team format to include more teams would be a big mistake that will harm the amazing nature of the best playoffs in all of sports. 

In a March 15 ESPN Article, NCAA President Charlie Baker said he “thinks there is an opportunity to expand the NCAA men’s basketball tournament—if it’s done with care.” Supposedly a new bracket would consist of no more than 80 teams, with 72 or 76 teams being the most likely options. 

Despite being the second biggest college sport, NCAA Basketball falls under the fingertips of NCAA Football. Football drives most of the decisions made for conferences and programs because the sport accumulates the most money, giving funds to the rest of the schools’ programs. This greediness has given even more power to the top conferences, like the SEC, which are pushing for the March Madness expansion the most.

What makes March Madness great is in its name: the madness. Although 68 teams is a lot for a playoff tournament, the sheer chaos that ensues makes it enjoyable. It wouldn’t be as entertaining if a consistent six to eight teams rotated to reach the Final Four from the field of 68 every year. But because of tournaments like 2023, where a four seed, two five seeds and a nine seed all made the final four, fans look forward to the unexpectedness that accompanies the tournament. No high seed is ever safe in the early rounds, with recent examples being 2023’s Purdue and 2022’s Kentucky teams. 

Theoretically, wouldn’t more teams make for more madness? Yes. But that madness would come at the cost of a changing bracket, which, if tangled with, could mess up the magic. Although it would be intriguing to see a lower-seeded team win more than five or six games it would need to win to reach the Final Four in this theoretical bracket, it is incredibly unlikely. This larger field would also benefit the top-seeded teams by giving them more off games, which allows them easier paths to the final four. 

One of the common justifications for expanding the bracket is that it allows more bubble teams a bid to the tournament. Since every conference tournament winner is guaranteed a spot in the field of 68, many teams who are in better conferences, but not projected in the field, win their conference’s tournament and become “bid stealers.” These bid stealers took five spots in the 2024 NCAA Tournament, which knocked all of the First Four out of the tournament. Although these teams should have been in the field, the solution to their problems is simple: win your conference tournament or win more regular season games. Just throwing these teams in the tournament for pity isn’t to make the games more interesting; it’s just to gather more money for power conferences.

Top-level NCAA officials’ decisions regarding conference realignment and the CFB expansion have been driven by financial gain for those top-level schools. Expanding the NCAA Men’s Tournament would follow this trend, which would lead to more power being transferred to the Power Conferences. Mid-major schools have little standing power as it is, and continuing the Power Conference’s expanding hold over NCAA Division I sports will lead to the eventual downfall of the leagues many fans love.

Behind the Byline
JJ Rella
JJ Rella, Managing Editor
JJ Rella is a 2023-2024 Managing Editor for the Wessex Wire. When he isn't playing baseball he's most likely watching the Yankees game at home. He spends a lot of time watching and following other professional sports too, with his other favorite teams being the Packers and Knicks. He also never takes off his wireless beats headphones, listening to Tyler, The Creator, Drake, Frank Ocean and more on timeless loops.
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