Thursday, April 22, 2010

NCAA to expand tourney to 68 teams

There was talk of a bracket-busting expansion to 96, a little March Madness madness so to speak, but thankfully the NCAA has seen sense and tossed that idea in the trash.

Instead, the annual basketball competition will expand to 68, allowing three more bubble teams to make the big dance. This year, based solely on NIT seeding, that means Illinois, Mississippi State and either Arizona State and Virginia Tech would have taken up those last three new spots.

In recent years, the last bubble teams have typically fallen 12 seed line, which is part of why you see so many 5-12 upsets, but far fewer 4-13 upsets. Instead, the last seeds will now fall on the 13 line, which should lead to a few more competitive 4-13 games (Murray State-Vanderbilt notwithstanding).

The other big news out of this is the TV deal. The Turner networks (TNT, TBS and TruTV) will pick up additional games, so you can watch the whole tourney on network and basic cable. Turner is quite good at basketball, having had an NBA deal for the last few years, so the tournament is in pretty good shape.

But mostly, this ends the problem of CBS not flipping to a more exciting finish because it wants to stay with its national game. Now, I can solve that issue with my remote.

Oh, and by the way, the NCAA makes out like a bandit on the cash end. The deal is for 14 years, and CNBC's Darren Rovell reports that the NCAA will take in an average of $771 million a year, up from $545 million a year.

That's a lot of scholarships for people who will go pro in something other than sports.

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