An NCAA Tournament expansion is coming closer to reality

Momentum is building for an expansion of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. What first seemed nonsense appears to have some merit.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The 'Big Dance' getting bigger is a thing looking more likely to happen. There are 362 Division One college basketball teams and the NCAA Tournament field has room for only 68. Should there be more in the future and if so, how many more?

Over a year ago, an NCAA committee suggested the NCAA Tournament be expanded to 96 teams. The idea gained little support.

The loudest and most credible voice arguing against expanding the Big Dance is Jay Bilas. On GameDay, Bilas said "Never underestimate the NCAA’s capacity to do something stupid. And if they did this, it would be profoundly stupid."

A main argument for expanding the NCAA Tournament is providing access to more teams. Bilas reminded college basketball fans that every team has access now. Win a conference tournament and a team is automatically in the 68-team field.

Bilas also provided a more subtle perspective that warrants attention. He said, "The one thing everybody’s forgetting is that this is not an access tournament, it’s a national championship event. You should have to do something hard to get in."

Jay Bilas is not wrong. There are, however, other considerations. according to Dana O'Neill, writing for The Athletic. Some college basketball administrators worry that if an upper tier of FBS teams is created, those schools might decide to stage their own 'Big Dance' every post-season. The financial repercussions for the programs relegated to another, and lesser, post-season tournament could be significant.

If the driver is money (and when is it not), there is a flip side. More NCAA Tournament teams means more teams sharing the revenue. Media partners may not value the added games as equal to the games in the 68-team field. If the revenue pie grows less than the payouts to schools, there will be pushback from college basketball's strongest conferences.

Recent information indicates an expansion to 96 teams is highly unlikely. More probable is the Big Dance field will grow to 72 or 76 teams. Such growth would not dramatically change anything.

Do Alabama Crimson Tide fans care?

Alabama Crimson Tide basketball fans may not be engaged in this conversation. Thanks to Nate Oats, the Alabama program has been elevated above being a frequent 'bubble' team. And expansion, at any number, will still have bubble teams that claim being unfairly excluded.