Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Column: An all-Division I NCAA Tournament for 2021 is a terrible idea

September 16, 2020
Illustration by Daena Faustino
Illustration by Daena Faustino —

Last year, men's college basketball fans had their hearts broken when the NCAA March Madness Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the best sports competitions of the year was done before it even started. The near-month long celebration of college basketball would have to be put off until 2021. 

As we get closer to the 2020-2021 college basketball season, Division I conferences are scrambling to come up with a solution to play the season while keeping players and fans safe. Will there be a bubble like the NBA? Will there be no non-conference games to start the year? Will there be another disaster like the college football season where the Big Ten and Pac 12 will sit out while the other conferences continue the show?

As it looks now, Big Ten college basketball WILL be played. However, many thought that same thing about  college football in the beginning of August.

That was not the big news regarding college basketball on Sept. 9 though. The big news was when the ACC coaches voted to propose that all 357 Division I teams make the NCAA Tournament for 2021, as opposed to the select 68 teams the tournament usually features.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski released a statement Wednesday showing support with the other ACC coaches.

Yes, this tournament would be boatloads of fun. Filling out and competing in bracket challenges would be even more intense. However, this is a terrible idea.

If the NCAA were to implement this 357-team tournament, what would happen with the regular season? Would it strictly be played just for seeding in the tournament and not the challenge of earning a select spot? 

Growing up from Minnesota, I was a huge Golden Gophers fan before coming to Michigan State. To let all of you life-long Spartan fans in on a little secret, it really is not that easy to make the NCAA Tournament. 

A successful Gophers basketball season in my lifetime has looked a lot different than a successful Spartans basketball season. In Minnesota, we are simply satisfied with an NCAA Tournament appearance. For MSU, it is more of a Final Four or bust. 

With that being said, significant amounts of suspense, drama, and urgency would be taken out of regular season games if every team makes the tournament. “Bubble teams” would be non-existent. Minnesota dropping a loss to Nebraska on a Tuesday night would be far less impactful; they make the tournament anyway, right?

So much reward gets taken away. There is no more fear of teams being relegated to the National Invitation Tournament, orNIT. The NIT would not be particularly happy with a 357-team NCAA tournament. The NCAA cannot, and should not, hand everyone a participation trophy.

There is only one scenario where this gigantic tournament is a good idea: if there is no regular season. But, that would present more problems. How would seeding be done? Would it be by records from last season, which we know hardly ever reflect the current season status?

That does not seem right at all. It would be shocking if Dayton is as good this year as last year after losing their star player, Obi Toppin. 

As they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The NCAA Tournament is not broken. It is perfect. Let’s not get carried away. 2020 has already been one of the wildest years ever, so let's not add another domino to the line. 

The NCAA must stick to the typical 68-team field. 

This article is part of our Living a Remote Life print edition. View the entire issue here.


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