Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Matta in Favor of NCAA Tourney Expansion.
Although the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is one of the more popular sporting events in the country, coaches, school presidents and athletic directors from around the nation met last week to discuss a possible change. The discussions focused on a potential increase of the tournament from 65 to as many as 96 teams.
A final decision was not made, nor is it expected to be anytime soon.
The possible expansion has received mixed reviews throughout the country, but Ohio State coach Thad Matta said he loves the idea.
“I think it would be excellent, I really do,” Matta said. “I think that you look at what used to be 16 [teams] and then I think they took it to 24 then to 32, 48 and 64. I think that that would be a great thing.”
Some speculate that the longer list of tournament invitees would give teams from mid-major conferences a better chance to play in the postseason. It is possible that the extra round could serve as a play-in round for smaller schools that would otherwise be denied the opportunity.
Others, however, suggest that the extra round would be filled with more teams from the power conferences, such as the Big Ten. It is thought that teams that finish at or near .500 in their conference could get the nod over the smaller schools to fill the additional spots.
Matta made it very clear which side of the argument he supports.
“I’d say the Big Ten,” Matta said when asked whether he’d like to see teams from his own conference or mid-major conferences make the tournament. “I know this [conference] is hard. I know what it takes to go through a stretch like we do of 18 Big Ten games.”
One concern Matta did express with the expansion was a potential decreased interest in the regular season — games that the coach said are what makes college basketball so great.
“The greatest thing I ever heard was from John Wooden and he said, ‘People put too much emphasis on the last game of the year,’” Matta said. “There is so much excitement along the way and I think that we lose the sight of what’s happening now as it’s all geared toward getting into the NCAA Tournament. There is so much great basketball to be played in the month of February and even in early March.”
A possible solution to Matta’s problem would be an increase in high-profile, out-of-conference matchups, a change that he said would be rather easy.
“[A larger tournament] allows you to be a little more risky in your non-conference schedule,” he said. “We’ve [played] Tennessee, we’ve done Florida and we’ve done LSU, but you can get out and do those things a little bit better and know that you’re going to be rewarded.”
Even given his concern, Matta was clear that he felt an expanded tournament would be in the best interest of college basketball. There are some, like OSU junior David Lighty, who see the situation a little differently.
Lighty doesn’t see a need for a change, but unlike his coach who seemed concerned about bettering the entire sport, his opinion was based on more selfish reasoning.
“I like it how it is,” Lighty said. “As long as we’re in it.”
This article was taken from OSU's student newspaper, The Lantern.