Frank Deford: The NCAA Basketball Tournament Should Not Be Expanded Among all the things in sports that need fixing, the NCAA basketball tournament isn't one of them. As it is, plenty of obscure teams get into the field of 65 teams. Commentator Frank Deford takes on the idea that basketball's "Big Dance" should get even bigger.
NPR logo

For NCAA's Tourney of 65, Less Is More

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
For NCAA's Tourney of 65, Less Is More

For NCAA's Tourney of 65, Less Is More

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


When is more less? Commentator Frank Deford takes on the suggestion that basketball's big dance should get even bigger.

FRANK DEFORD: There are some things in sport that every wise, clear-thinking, informed person - like me - wants changed. These include: the National Football League overtime rule, the idiotic way the college football championship is determined, that pretentious, saccharine ceremony after the Masters when they put the tacky green jacket on the new champion.

How much a finer, lovelier a world it would be if wiser heads prevailed and all those terrible things could be fixed. Ah, rather, the reverse.

Yes, now some numbskulls are suggesting a way to screw up the one best thing in college sport. They actually want to add teams to the men's NCAA basketball tournament. Sixty-five isn't enough. Let's have 96. No, let's have 128. Honestly. That is what people are suggesting.

This would mean something like the eighth-best team in the Atlantic Southwestern Conference would be playing the sixth-best team in the Big Whatever in the national championship tournament. Any bar that watered down the drinks down that much would be out of business before happy hour.

Mostly, it seems the geniuses who want to dilute March Madness are basketball coaches. Hey, let's be honest. These guys don't want more teams in the NCAAs. They just want more coaches in the NCAAs.

It's bad enough we have grade inflation for students. Now we'll have resume inflation for coaches.

The way it is now, March Madness has it just right. Nobody gets any byes. Nobody gets any home-court advantage. They played one game last night, and everybody else starts tomorrow and Friday, then the regionals. Then the Final Four, very neat - the most symmetrical championship around.

And it attracts extra interest, because all those people who don't know basketball from badminton fill out brackets down at the office and hope for a little jackpot.

Listen, you take the NCAAs up to 96 or 128, and all of a sudden the fun of brackets is going to feel more like a chore. It'll be like having to do your taxes.

Look, I understand: college basketball does feel a little slighted nowadays. As the Super Bowl carries football into February, the window in college hoops reign supreme diminishes. Since March Madness is its moment in the sun, it naturally wants to make more of that. But too much of a bad thing is not the answer.

We may say second chances are very American, but in playoffs, the vicarious thrill is knowing the loser is finished, gone, kaput, extinguished. It's mean, but that's why we watch. But also, you must have some appreciation of who's competing, or you just don't care.

Add more teams, more games, more weeks, and you'll turn March Madness into March Monotony.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: The comments of Frank Deford. He joins us Wednesdays from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Linda Wertheimer.


And Im Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.