Tournament still as great as ever, even with 68 teams

17 Mar

I hated the idea of expanding the NCAA tournament. To me, that’s watering down the best thing that ever happened to college basketball. But so far, with the field of 68 – four more teams than in recent years, this first Thursday has been as awesome as ever.

14-seed Morehead State beat 3-seed Louisville by one point on a perfect 3-pointer, and it was the school’s first win over the Cardinals since the 1956-57 season. That’s not just a delicious upset; that is historic. The 8 v. 9 matchup between Butler defeated Old Dominion came down to one basket. 13-seed Princeton took 4-seed Kentucky down to the wire, just barely unable to force overtime thanks to a Wildcat bucket with two seconds remaining. Temple beat Penn State by a mere two points. All that and more, and it’s only 4 p.m. on Thursday!

The kinds of matchups and opportunities and excitement this tournament creates are simply unparalleled. If you’re a college basketball fan, this time of year is heaven. I know it is for me. Walking back from class today, I had to fight the urge to jump up and down and hoot and holler in anticipation of some of the best games of the year. I could hardly get home fast enough.

As I’ve said, this year’s March Madness is already off to an incredible start. I just hope the NCAA won’t take this success and popularity as a reason to expand the tournament more. Four play-in games, fine. Whatever. I probably won’t watch them, and I would guess I’m not alone in that. But if they open it up to 96 teams, or whatever the next number is, that will seriously hamper the competitiveness of this event.

Right now, it’s the perfect length, and the teams who get in are solid teams used to winning. One of the broadcasters just pointed out that every game so far today has gone to halftime with a 5-point margin or less, and five games have been decided by 15 points total. That’s some serious basketball! Every year, good teams get left out, but if inclusion in this tournament ceases to become competitive, the essence of it is lost.

Here’s hoping the tournament will be as exciting in all the years to come as it has been in just the last few hours.

 

 

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