"Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount."
--From the Our Mission page of the NCAA
Wait, you mean adding more games and more teams to the tournament will further "integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education?" If by integrate one means student-athletes will miss more classes, especially around mid-terms, then absolutely. The commitment these kids show by dedicating themselves both to their teams and to the professors who shape their young minds is really something else. And this says nothing about the impact the expansion will have on the student bodies of the no-longer marginal schools who will now be able to participate in March Madness. I foresee a great number of cram sessions in the carrels and dorm rooms of UMass, Drexel, Long Beach State and the like. These kids just have to get their homework done before the games begin.
The best part is the number of upsets will surely increase with the greater number of .500 teams from big conferences and occasional small conference teams who are added to the mix. Actually not. It will be the same as it always is. Hope will grow like spring grass--Gosh, Jimmy, maybe we will be the Valparaiso or George Mason of the tournament this year--only to be scythed down by big-time, moneyed programs. That is reality. Last season, upsets were rare and inconsequential. In the first round the lower seed prevailed in 10 of 32 games, and three of these were 10-seeds beating 7-seeds; hardly Cinderella material. The second round? One lower-seeded team beat a higher seeded opponent, with #5 Purdue besting #4 Washington. Your heart beating faster upon recalling the game? Mine neither. (Actually, this was a good game but hardly an upset.) The Sweet Sixteen round produced eight teams, all of which were 1-, 2- or 3-seeds.
Upsets are the exception, but the NCAA markets them like they are what the tournament is all about. The tournament is all about cash. And this is why teams like my alma mater (UMass) and those from other smaller programs shouldn't get their hopes up. The field will expand to 96 but it won't be the mid-majors who benefit. It will be the middling schools from the big conferences. Think Big-10, Pac-10, Big-12, ACC, SEC Why? Because these are the schools with the big alumni associations who will throw down for the travel packages. And wouldn't you rather see fan shots of hotties from Florida State, University of Miami and Vanderbilt than those of the heifers who roll in from DePauw or North Dakota State? We thought so.
This won't be the end of the world as the purists will have you believe, but it won't make the tournament any better either. Was anyone really complaining about the lack of games? This change will just mean more games, more gambling, more articles about more productivity lost in the workplace and, with any luck, more shots of girls like the Seminole duo above.
As for DePauw and feeder/gainer fans everywhere, they won't be left out in the post-season cold. There's still the NIT after all. It'll be around at least until the NCAA decides to expand the tournament to 128 teams in 2018.