Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NCAA presents expanded basketball tournament models that could grow Big Dance to 72, 76 teams


On Wednesday NCAA officials presented Division I conference commissioners with at least two different models that could expand the NCAA Tournament field to 72 or 76 teams, CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander confirms through multiple sources. If passed, the NCAA’s plans for tournament expansion would not take effect until at least the 2025-26 season. 

According to Yahoo Sports, the presented changes would keep the core 64-team bracket intact, adding additional play-in games and at least one more First Four site. Expansion to the women’s tournament could follow suit.

The NCAA Tournament field was expanded from 65 to 68 in 2011 and from 64 to 65 in 2001. The alteration to the event’s core bracket came in 1985 when it expanded from 53 teams to 64. 

Additional tournament games could be a way to increase revenue as schools seek to offset financial costs of the recent House v. NCAA decision. There’s also realignment to consider. With the Big 12, ACC, SEC and Big Ten all adding teams in 2024-25, those conferences will have fewer at-large bids to share under the current structure. Tournament expansion could help compensate for that without scrapping auto bids for smaller leagues.

“The tournament is one of the greatest spectacles in sports,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark told CBS Sports in May. “It captivates hardcore fans and casual fans for all the right reasons, and you don’t want to mess with something that’s great, but if there are chances and opportunities to modify a little bit, to maybe provide more access, to amplify the experience, to look at it slightly differently, we owe it to ourselves to do that. I’m a firm believer that from time to time, you’ve got to put things through an audit. As great as they might look, it makes sense to do that and go through that exercise.”

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