ACC coaches, with the strong urging of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, are urging an open NCAA tournament this year with every team included.
That’s 347 teams which works out to 86.75 teams per bracket. Or maybe they just move to eight brackets? Who knows?
It’s an interesting idea though and it has been kicked around for years. For one thing, the entire country would be intrigued. Could, say, Kennesaw State, just 1-28 last year, pull a miracle?
There are other concerns though. This is a reaction to the pandemic and as Coach K says, the NCAA needs income after missing last year. Assuming each program brings a minimum of 25 people, and assuming there is still a need for a bubble, that means hotel rooms for 8,675 people and that doesn’t count all the auxiliary people like TV crews and so forth.
So that either means multiple bubbles or a very large metropolitan area.
There’s no question that it would be fascinating. The real bottom feeders would be home in a game or two and the real tournament would take a while to get started.
Joe Lunardi is skeptical. The ESPN bracketologist points to several potential problems that could cause real difficulties, aside from the pandemic stuff.
Even so, we’re quite sure that doing this would make the tournament a vast national party. If we were doing the advertising for it, we’d pitch it as a sort of Game of Thrones deal where everyone is scheming to off everyone else.
And even if Lunardi is right and the ACC wrong, it’s a good thing to discuss. Great challenges can lead to great innovations. Even if this is not the answer, it’s at least posing a great question.
Here’s another idea we’ve pushed for a long time: use the pre-season NIT to assemble a large field of likely tournament teams and start the season with a bang. You could schedule another around New Year’s to mark progress and then the normal post-season shindig. This would add revenue with quality games, create (or recreate) rivalries, and get tournament experience which younger players in the one-and-done era don’t always have.
That would be a fun way to extend it, avoid the complications of moving 8K+ people around and build story lines to return to in March.
Consider this as one possible thing that could be worked in: old rivalries which were damaged in conference expansion could be renewed. Kansas and Missouri could be scheduled or at least put on a collision path. So could Texas and Texas A&M. And so, God help us, could Duke and Maryland.
This is the only scenario, by the way, where we would endorse that last idea.