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Mar 20, 2024 5:15 pm

Coaches conflicted on NCAA Tournament expansion conversation

Indiana State

Expanding the NCAA Tournament was a hot-button topic on Wednesday with underdogs and blue bloods seemingly in agreement that a bigger field will not necessarily equate to a better event.

“The only reason I would be for expansion to the 96 or whatever they’re talking is to keep us in it. If that’s the only way we’re going to stay in it, then I’m for it,” retiring Oakland head coach Greg Kampe said.

“What I’m saying is don’t keep us out. You know, we’re what make this tournament, the little guy. Why does everybody love ‘Hoosiers,’ right, the greatest movie, why? Because the little guy. And today is the anniversary the day that Jimmy Chitwood in real life made the shot. I don’t know if you knew that, but it is. Today is the anniversary where Milan beat South Bend 33 to 31 or whatever the score was and Jimmy made the shot that turned into the movie Hoosiers. That’s what college basketball is. That’s why it’s one of the three greatest sporting events in the world. And just don’t let the Jimmy — Trey Townsend, Jack Gohlke, Blake (Lampman) — they could be Jimmy Chitwood tomorrow night. Don’t take that away from us.”

For the same reasons the College Football Playoff multiplied from a four-team playoff to 14 in a blink — see the billion-dollar rights agreement ESPN announced on Tuesday — the NCAA Tournament is projected to grow to as many as 100 teams. The peripheral repercussions within a massive ballooning of the bracket aren’t abundantly clear to coaches who almost universally said on Wednesday they lean on their athletic directors and administration to filter those big-picture discussions down to direct impacts.

Akron coach John Groce said it is “our hope” that more Mid-Major teams from conferences like the MAC would be invited to the NCAA Tournament if expansion occurs.

Hubert Davis, who guided North Carolina to a No. 1 seed as ACC regular-season champions and took the Tar Heels to the NCAA championship game in 2022, said he won’t get caught up in the size of the field. A player for the Tar Heels before an NBA playing career and his current coaching role, Davis said he’ll instead focus on making sure he and his players understand the privilege of being invited.

“The only thing that is in front of me is, as a coach, trying to prepare this team to be the best that they can be every year. Whether the tournament stays the same or it expands or changes, it’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of this tournament, and it’s something that we’re really excited about,” he said.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wondered aloud about shifting the NCAA Tournament selection process to address automatic bids. At the heart of the matter is a team such as Missouri Valley Conference regular-season champion Indiana State. The 28-win Sycamores lost to Drake in the MVC tournament and despite a NET rating of 29, didn’t make the field without the benefit of the league’s automatic bid.

Emotion aside, Izzo understands the financial equation is the ultimate decider on matters related to the NCAA Tournament.

“I feel for some teams that didn’t get in when you have those automatic bids,” Izzo said. “I’m not sure I understand why, but the conference tournament things, you can go and like Purdue go 17-3 and dominate the conference and then lose. It’s OK if it’s the second-place team, but I think that makes it hard, why some teams will get left out. I don’t know if something could be fixed there. But then the conference tournament wouldn’t be as — it’s all about what is best for the financial part of it, if we were to be very blunt and honest with you, more than it is the player and teams.”

–Field Level Media

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