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Cynics can unite behind NCAA's 96

BC again tests the depth of the lowest common denominator by letting me post.

I should say up front that I’m ambivalent on the expansion of the NCAA tournament. I know it’s a money grab, or at least an attempt to grab money.

I think the competitive side has good and bad points that balance somewhat. On the positive side, it no longer will be impossible for a 16-17 survivor to beat a No. 1 seed. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a No. 1 go out in its first game next season. We’ll see better teams in the Final 64. Think along the lines of the match-play golf event that is played each spring. Every player earns his spot and is capable of winning. That’s what we’re going to see once the first round is concluded.

On the negative, I’m a little disappointed to see the NIT go away, as is likely. My wife can tell you that no college basketball on the Monday night after Selection Sunday can make me a little jittery. I really liked being able to see the not-quite-good-enoughs get after each other. The further along the tournament went, the more the teams were into it… but I really appreciated those Tuesday and Wednesday night fixes before the first round of the NCAAs.

However, even as a oft-boiled cynic, I’m really surprised at the schedule for the 96-team monstrosity floated by the NCAA’s Greg Shaheen this week at the Final Four. Our own srr50 noted that the NCAA had been considering a Tuesday-Wednesday first round that would begin right after Selection Sunday. Now, the leader appears to be somewhat in line with the current schedule – a Thursday-Friday first round, with 16 games each day, and another set of 16 games each on Saturday and Sunday.

The round of 32 would be held Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week, and the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games will be held beginning Thursday of the second week, the way things are now. Frankly, this stinks for everybody.

Now, I understand that trying to make this work for next year will cause some cramps. They’re committed to arena dates, and I expect that they figure they can effectively slip the "extra" game into the second week because it’s going to be easier to control the regional sites than get in a couple of days ahead at a first-rounder that may have a pro tenant or two.

But if this is a long-term schedule, I think they’re going to run into trouble getting butts in seats for the first game of the second week, which is a shame, because that’s always some good basketball. It’s one thing to commit two vacation days to a hoops trip… it’s another to commit four days or more when you really don’t know how long you need to be there. Moreover, they’ll be turning the first two days of the tournament into an appetizer, when it needs to be a main course. I’ll try to watch like I usually do, but if I happened to miss it, it most likely won’t matter at all.

The major problem, though, is for the teams. If you’re a bottom-half seed, this schedule really lays a load on you. Beginning with the first round, to get to the Final Four, you have to win five games in 10 days. You can pretty much forget about George Mason making it under this schedule.

But it’s not like the top eight seeds will have it easy. They’ll have to win four games in eight days. This ain’t the NBA, never was, but it’s turning out that the NCAA’s money grab is this important: They’re going to put the student-athletes on the Elite Eight teams through a physical and emotional wringer and keep them out of class for an entire week.

What’s a four-letter abbreviation for "hypocrite"?