NCAA Tournament expansion Mar 16, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Close up of the March Madness logo on basketball during NCAA Tournament First Round Columbus Practice at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

College sports are changing rapidly. But amidst all the change, fans, media, and observers have made one loud request: “Don’t mess with the NCAA Tournament.”

Over the years, March Madness has taken on a life of its own. It’s annually become one of the quintessential sporting events in America, and the rise in sports gambling has only fueled that even more. It’s a television event that draws in great audiences.

So naturally, college commissioners are reportedly turning and burning toward NCAA tournament expansion.

This week, a detailed and thorough report from Yahoo! Sports writer Ross Dellenger emerged. College commissioners continue to try and work toward solutions to significant Division I issues. Although the NCAA Tournament hasn’t produced many issues over the years, the way it sounds, college commissioners want more.

Dellenger quoted Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark saying, “I want to see the best teams competing for a National Championship, no different than (the Big Ten and SEC) want to see in football. I’m not sure that is currently happening.”

It’s an interesting argument for the Big 12 commissioner to make. While the Big 12 isn’t leading the charge like the Big Ten or SEC, they’re an outstanding basketball conference. Since the tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011, the Big 12 has sent:

  • Five teams in 2011
  • Six teams in 2012
  • Five teams in 2013
  • Seven teams in 2014 (highest among all conferences)
  • Seven teams in 2015 (tied for 1st among all meetings)
  • Seven teams again in 2016 (tied for 1st again)
  • Six teams in 2017
  • Seven teams again in 2018
  • Six teams in 2019
  • Seven teams again in 2021
  • Six teams in 2022
  • Seven teams in 2023

On average, the Big 12 has sent six teams annually to the NCAA Tournament. They’re not exactly hurting, as they would have accounted for over 50 percent of their conference. The SEC and Big Ten had eight bids in last season’s tournament. In 2022, the Big Ten had a whopping nine.

So, who are we really targeting here? The answer is probably the mid-major programs.

Much like the Group of 5 deals with in football, mid-major basketball teams always deal with the short end of the stick. They’ve been snubbed in favor of mediocre high-major programs for years, pit against each other in the tournament, and sometimes get a really raw deal. Hello, 2014 Wichita State. When the people who call for tournament expansion do so, let’s be clear: They’re not out here rooting for the little guy.

Even though the little guy has always made the NCAA Tournament much better.

While the anti-expansion crowd likely would get riled up by this development, it’s true that CBS and WBD might still have a say here. The media rights contract is good until 2032, per the AP’s Ralph D. Russo.

So, while we all await the potential inevitable, we may not have to deal with this reality for nearly another decade.

[Yahoo! Sports]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022