As colleges transition back into in-person classes and events for the fall semester, they are looking for ways to play sports and make up for lost time. For the coaches of the Athletic Coast Conference (ACC), this means proposing a considerable change to the NCAA Tournament.
On Wednesday, the head basketball coaches of the ACC unanimously voted to propose an “all-inclusive” version of the Tournament. This would mean including 346 Division I programs in one bracket, creating an event with more than five times as many teams as a usual March Madness bracket would have.
Duke head men’s basketball coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Mike Krzyzewski reportedly led the talks of this proposal.
“This is not a regular season. It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student athlete to compete for a national championship.”
While the ACC coaches are all in favor of the proposal, the rest of the college basketball world has been left divided on the idea.
Joe Lunardi, a senior writer for ESPN and the inventor of "bracketology," wrote an article describing the many challenges that this tournament would face. He talked about the thousands of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests that would need to occur and the difficulty of trying to keep more than 300 teams free of the virus.
Lunardi also talked about how some teams wouldn't deserve to play in the tournament.
“The NCAA tournament isn’t an exhibition. It isn’t charity,” Lunardi said. “It is an earned opportunity to compete for a national championship.”
For the Rutgers men’s basketball team, based on last season's results, this tournament change would have little effect on its ability to succeed. Under the guidance of head men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell, the Scarlet Knights were on their way to breaking a 29-year Tournament drought before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the NCAA to cancel the Tournament.
Though Rutgers fans might love to see the Knights with a guaranteed spot in the Big Dance, it looks like the NCAA will not grant this wish.
After the ACC proposal became public knowledge, NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt released a statement to address this idea.
“Every college basketball team’s goal is to play in the NCAA Tournament because everyone loves March Madness,” Gavitt said. “While all who care about the game are entitled to their opinion, and we’ll always listen respectfully, at this time we are not working on any contingency plan that involves expanding the tournament field.”
The concerns with COVID-19 also make a bigger tournament even less likely, with all the testing and procedures that would need to be put in place.
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