96 Teams: NCAA Confirms “Continuous Dialogue”

Jeff Goodman at FoxSports.com reports late Monday that NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen denied my report earlier today that the NCAA has settled on a 96-team format for the NCAA tournament but confirmed that the organization will “investigate the possibility of expanding the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Tournament going to 96 teams

Shaheen said that there has been continuous dialogue about the potential of going from 65 to 96 teams.

“It’s part of our due diligence,” Shaheen said. “We have to look at what our membership wants. … Have we talked to people in our membership about expanding? Absolutely.

Goodman also noted:

The NCAA’s deal with the 32-team NIT also expires at the end of this season and, according to sources, one of the possibilities is to end the agreement and take 31 of those teams and add them to the NCAA tournament field.

While Shaheen wouldn’t comment on it, one source said that if the tournament does expand to 96, one of the potential formats would involve the identical start and end date and less travel than the NCAA and NIT tournaments combined.

Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com reports that today Kansas Coach Bill Self also indicated, “he could see it (the tournament) jumping to 72 or 96 teams.”

Kansas coach Bill Self said he doesn’t know the right formula, but he’s convinced the NCAA Tournament will eventually expand from its current 65-team bracket.

Self said he’s all for it. College basketball has become so big, he said, with so many good players and good teams, regardless of conference affiliation, that it makes sense to expand the tournament field. He said he could see it jumping to 72 or 96 teams.

“Whatever it is, if it’s 96 there’s going to be 97, 98, 99 that feel like they got left out,” Self said. “I think television will dictate so much of it. I think it’s worth discussing, but I haven’t seen anyone’s formula that would be the right forumla. Football can’t figure it out and theydeal with less teams.”

Caplan reports that Texas Tech coach Pat Knight also discussed the prospect:

“Sitting at 2-5 (in the Big 12), I’m all for it.” Yes, he laughed. In all seriousness, Knight thinks if the field is expanded, it would increase the one thing everybody loves to see in the opening rounds: “There would be a lot more upsets if they expand the field.”

And that makes TV people very, very happy.

After I posted my report earlier today and saw the almost unanimous negative reaction from fans, I asked one of my original sources if fan and media backlash could kill the move to 96 teams.

My source said, “no.”

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