Over in yesterday’s FanPosts section (use those whenever you want, gang...), bl8r86 got to chatting about a story from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. The bracketologist was talking about a 72-team NCAA Tournament field, to prevent regular season mid-major champs (like Illinois State last year) from being left out due to a single-elimination conference tournament.
Of course, one potential solution there would be to just get rid of conference tournaments. But because college basketball’s a money-making venture, and Lunardi’s part of that orbit, there’s no way anyone’s advocating for less games/television inventory.
In any case, Lunardi uses Illinois State’s situation as the one this proposed format would save us from, then adds the input of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), who also want an expanded field. Their reasons are pretty cut-and-dry: more bids means more chances for them to keep their jobs.
Jim Boeheim’s been a long-time proponent of a larger tourney field, and you may recall him stumping for expansion several times before. Part of that is due to the Syracuse Orange being narrowly left out of the field a few times during his tenure.
How many times could a 72-team field have lent an assist? A look at the teams that would’ve likely made it to March Madness with more bids to give:
2017: 18-14 overall, 10-8 in ACC
You don’t have to wander far to see where this expansion would’ve helped Syracuse out. The Orange were among the “first four out” in 2017, after the committee just didn’t love the program’s record away from home, or it’s lack of quality victories there either. Would you have rather seen SU in a play-in game than an ill-fated NIT stint? Yes, very much so.
2007-08: 19-13 overall, 9-9 in Big East
Have your doubts if you want, but this team was still during the 65-bid format of the NCAAs. Syracuse was crushed by injuries all season, but also had the exciting duo of Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene on the court every night. They were far from perfect (and terrible on defense), but this group battled and picked up some resume-worthy wins along the way.
2006-07: 22-10 overall, 10-6 in Big East
The snub to end all snubs. Lunardi (and others) had the Orange safely in the field as a 10-seed or so after compiling a respectable record in league play and a couple high-quality wins. But instead, SU was left out for the likes of Stanford, Arkansas and Old Dominion. Boeheim did his typical TV circuit afterward to complain, which he very well should have.
2001-02: 20-11 overall, 9-7 in Big East
Syracuse was ranked much of the year, but closed on a 4-9 freefall that ultimately kept them out of the field (there was more emphasis on how you finished the season back then). SU ended up a top seed in the NIT, so yeah, it’s very likely they would’ve made the NCAAs in an expanded field.
The seasons above were the four you can clearly point to since the NCAA Tournament’s growth to a 64-team field in 1985. There are other potential cases to be made in the 1970s and early 1980s (1981, particularly), but that becomes a whole different conversation given the vastly different selection process and bid number.
Are you in favor of a 72-team field? Does it water down the tournament even more than it already has been? Or is all of that okay if Syracuse gets more chances to potentially apologize to America? Share your own thoughts below.