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It’s just not fair

POSTED April 6, 2010 9:44 p.m.
What if Gordon Hayward’s shot went in?
If you were one of the millions who watched Monday night’s NCAA Tournament Championship in Indianapolis, you know that Butler’s best player was close to achieving immorality if his last-second halfcourt fling didn’t bounce off the backboard at the Lucas Oil Stadium and then the rim before landing on the floor. It resulted in another celebration for Duke, a walking national championship trophy.
It also resulted in perhaps the last great postseason.
By this time next year, the NCAA could expand its March Madness from the current format of 65 teams to 96, making the most exciting, unpredictable, jaw-dropping postseason in any sport — professional or otherwise — into a slower, not-so-enjoyable arrangement of less-deserving teams going up against the top dogs of college basketball. This is not like Halloween, where a successful night can be determined in the abundance of treats in a person’s bag.
No, it’s like jamming a bunch of B-list actors into an Oscar-caliber movie thinking more equals better.
What the NCAA is doing is watering down its best product.
According to numerous reports, what the NCAA wants to do is have the teams seeded 33 through 96 play on the first two days of the tournament, which would begin on a Thursday or Friday. The winners would move on to face teams 1 through 32 on Saturday and Sunday. Yeah, more games mean more time for college basketball junkies to spend more time in front of the TV or their computers, right?
No, this isn’t the good kind of appetizers. You’re talking about teams that never belonged with the big boys playing in games that will likely be blowouts. And by the time those teams are done with those rounds, their next opponents will be teams like Kansas, Duke, Syracuse and Kentucky -- well-rested teams. Is that fair?
Yes, said Greg Shaheen, the NCAA’s vice president for basketball and business strategies. The expanded tournament could mean a $6 billion deal with CBS. He presented this new format while the tournament was issuing upsets like a mom denying her kid playtime.
“In terms of context, it’s important to point out that across the 88 championships that the association has, the majority of them have expanded in the last 10 years. The topic of field size is an evergreen topic that is up to our membership,” he said in his presentation.
If the new format was implemented this season, teams like UConn and North Carolina -- teams that are regular postseason attendees that turned out horrible seasons this year -- would have made the cut. And it affects beyond the parameters of the NCAA brackets. Fans would have to make more copies of the brackets at the office, since the 96-team bracket will require more space. Relationships will have to sit on the backburner a little big longer because more games are available to watch.
And what happened Monday night when Butler’s Hayward heaved a halfcourt shot that could have been the greatest finish to a national championship game might not ever happen again. That’s because the Bulldogs’ run would have been a little longer and tougher, while the big boys of the NCAA tournament would just sit back and wait for their turn.
Is that fair?

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