March Money Madness – Bradley Scouts

Photo by Jacob Rice via Unsplash

In the world of sports, it seems that many stories are unearthed and refreshed every year. That includes playoff expansion, and March Madness is the latest to join those conversations.

The NCAA’s top dog is part of the organization’s record $1.16 billion in 2021 revenue — about 85% of revenue. With this success, the NCAA it is said In discussion of adding 68 teams to the tournament. Any position from 96 to 128 teams has been proposed, but all will make the NCAA one thing they care about: a bigger piece of the pie.

Not only does the expansion of the Championship violate the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” phrase, but it could wreck what made the Championship — and the season that led to it — already great.

background

As the NCAA’s cash cow, a successful March is critical. CBS and Turner Sports’ contracts with the NCAA currently run through 2032, and the latest extension to the agreement will provide the NCAA with an additional $8.8 billion.

That’s a lot of money before you count 18.5 million people watched the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship. Not only did 18.5 million people watch the Kansas Jayhawks’ 72-69 win, but they also watched ads scrolling across the scoreboard, a plethora of CapitalOne ads and a steady stream of marketing ploys.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 tournament is the first March Madness since 2019 with a full arena. The rebirth of the tournament not only got the network right, it got coaches and the NCAA thinking: “What if we gave them more??”

Reason for adding

Syracuse head coach Jim Boheim, 77, said he fought for the expansion for 30 years. Baylor head coach Scott Drew said his preference is a full 128 team. Even SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is looking at a larger area for his upcoming 16-team meeting.

These talkers are advocating for more teams to play for several reasons. The first is because the current format has eliminated too many talented teams. There are currently 358 teams in college basketball, and only 19 percent have the privilege of competing for the national championship.

The second reason expansion is taking off is because some coaches think it’s not only fair to see more teams get involved and give a chance, but it’s more fun for fans. Last year’s darling St. Peter’s Peacocks became the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight. The 3,000-student school in New Jersey quickly became a fan favorite and has the nation cheering for David on the road against multiple Goliaths.

The last major reason policymakers are pushing the sport is much quieter, but self-evident: Bigger tournaments lower everyone’s odds of winning. A talented tournament regular like Duke could add another game, especially if it makes it harder for Cinderella to get the ball.

confrontation

As a firm believer that the NCAA tournament is the best playoff game in all of sports, I think expanding the tournament would lose the charm that the regular season brings. Also, it won’t solve the problem of including all valuable teams, and it’s just for the money.

First, during last year’s March Madness, Michigan was successful despite losing their first game in the Big 10 tournament and finishing with a meager 17-14 record. Michigan’s argument is that they had a tough game on a non-conference schedule and had a brilliant conference. While true, I can’t wait to see the argument for when a sub-.500 team will play because they play so hard and take a “quality loss”.

For example, if you’re the Wolverines, why put any top team on the non-conference roster? If you schedule a winable game and get a mediocre finish in the top 10, you’ll have an incredible chance of making it to the 128-team squad.

Another point made by supporters is that expanding the field would help include all teams worthy of playoff contention. While waiting to agree on a definition of what makes a team “valuable,” let me dissect why this problem will never go away as long as someone eats at the children’s table.

Let’s go back to Wolverine here. Michigan State once again went 17-14 in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The top-seeded Dayton Flyers in last year’s NIT Championship finished the season with a 23-10 record. The added tournament will definitely include both, so while the debate between 68 and 69 is settled, the battle between 128 and 129 is only just beginning. Until all 358 teams are included, there will always be someone unhappy.

time to whistle

Going up against singer Jessie J on “Price Tag” is actually all about the money. The NCAA is a business, and while they are in the business of giving college-athletes a space to compete and have always been about “student-athletes,” they need to find ways to make money and keep their product ahead of the curve. Going stale can ruin a product, so a stagnant March Madness field might give leaders that impression.

Shooting time needs to expire in extended negotiations for the NCAA tournament. Doing so will salvage the importance of the regular season and keep the bottom line the same: Only the best talent joins the madness.

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