So NCAA Tournament Expansion Now Looks Like A Certainty...

Hi. I know I haven't been posting as much as I probably should be during the closing weeks of the season. Real life has basically chosen a bad time to get crazy, but that's a discussion for later (maybe even the end of this post).

Today, the NCAA held their annual pre-Final Four press conference, featuring Men's Division I Basketball Committee chair Dan Guerrero and Greg Shaheen, who is the NCAA's full-time point man for the sport. 

That's where the stink bomb was set off. The NCAA has decided that if expansion does happen, it will be to 96-teams.

Beyond that, as the transcript of the presser shows, the Association really has no clue how this will actually happen (making me wonder how much actual "studying" was actually completed by the powers that be). My former SB Nation cohort Eamonn Brennan, who now works for the company who could benefit most from this ESPN, highlighted a lengthy exchange between Shaheen and John Feinstein, which surrounded the schedule of the expanded event and how it would impact academics. 

Now, I'm going to qualify this next statement by reminding/informing you that I spend my days editing complicated, often poorly-written technical documentation.

There have been very few times in my life where my head has been in more of a fog after reading something than it was after reading that transcript.

More after the jump.

It looks like that from a scheduling perspective this is what we're looking at.

Teams ranked 33-96 (seeds 9-32) would play in the first round on Thursday and Friday.

Those winners would advance to meet the teams ranked 1-32 (seeds 1-8) on Saturday and Sunday.

These two facts seem pretty concrete. After this, there's nothing but mud.

Monday appears to be an off day, while the Round of 32 would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Where these 16 games would take place is up for debate. Will they take place at a subregional site, or would there be eight qualifiers for each of the four regionals, instead of the current four? 

I think regional expansion is in play. Saturday winners can travel on Sunday to a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday regional, while Sunday winners can travel Monday to a Wednesday/Friday/Sunday regional.

As Feinstein points out, this would result in regional qualifiers missing a whole lot of class time, provided their institutions aren't on Spring Break, which is always a possibility in mid-March.

I've made my position on expansion clear both here and on Twitter. (I will again direct you to my post on 96-team expansion options and my projected 96-team fields for this postseason.) I still find it odd that this topic is being discussed with such fervor in the midst of one of the greatest Tournaments Ive seen, which happened to occur in a season with potentially the weakest at-large pool in history.

I know that next season could the complete opposite of this one, but I doubt it will be competitive enough to offer up 31 additional quality teams for the field. (Unless, of course, the NCAA elects to give each conference two auto bids, rewarding teams from all levels of Division I.) But money trumps all, which is another reason to suspect that there won't be much of an expansion on the auto bid front.

While I'm not happy with these developments, I'm willing to give them a chance. However, I do think a protest of some nature is needed to close this season. While I don't currently have the resources to drive to Indy and picket NCAA headquarters, thanks to booking a June trip to Chicago and Seattle, I'm contemplating boycotting the second semifinal on Saturday night on TV, radio, Internet, and Twitter.

I'll watch the first semifinal as it may be the last time a team from below the Red Line may make it to this stage (even though Butler beat Syracuse, I'd like to see them do something special). But the second game, featuring two BCS schools who have their share of detractors in the American populace, is an excellent boycott target. If enough people skip the game, which is right in primetime, perhaps the ratings will take a hit, and the powers that be will notice.

Sure, this is unlikely to happen, and I'm silly to suggest this in the first place, but this is the best time and way for fans across to country to make a statement against expansion. 

Now before I sign off, I want to talk a bit about the state of the blog... 

I will be back next season to give a 96-team field a go, if this is indeed the decision the NCAA makes. After that, we'll see.

For this offseason, my focus is going to be less on the silly season goings-on, as I have little to no interest in things like recruiting and the NBA Draft. Instead, I want to look ahead to what next season has to offer on the court, particularly in terms of non-conference scheduling. I'll also be writing about some ways to improve the sport, especially when it comes to building interest in the regular season (which could be very important if people stop caring about March).

As for next season, I hope to go to more games in person, which is something I really missed over the past few months. I can count the number of games I saw live this season on my fingers and toes, and my writing and overall happiness suffered because of it. Plus, my day job became progressively more complicated and stressful as the season moved along, so I was a bit burnt out once conference play started. Since things won't be changing much on that front, I hope I don't have a similar problem next season. 

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