Beginning in 2011, the Men’s NCAA tournament will expand to 68 teams. The tournament will also be broadcast on TNT, TBS, and truTV, along with the regular CBS.
The TV deal, a $10.8 billion deal through 2024, is most likely a good thing. It provides a way for every single game to be viewed during the first two weekends of the tournament. CBS will be the only network to show the Elite Eight and Final Four through 2015, but after that it will be split between CBS and Turner.
The team expansion, however, is not great news. While not official yet (the unanimous suggestion from the Committee must get the nod of approval from the Board), it will surely go through. What it means is that in 2011, there will be 68 teams in the tournament. What has not been decided is the process for this expansion.
There is no restriction to keeping the tournament at 68 teams beyond 2011. While 68 is much better than the proposed increase to 96 teams, it merely seems like a temporary compromise.
It is also not clear how the four “play-in” games will be organized. Will the 8 worst teams – probably the worst 8 conference champions – have to play in just to play the #1 seed? Or will they include the last 4 At-Large bids into that group for perhaps entry to the #12 seed?
There are plenty of things that could go wrong with this. It is already a nod to big conference schools that schedule weak pre-season opponents. Hopefully they do not penalize the wrong Cinderella teams with a Tuesday game.
The one piece of great news through the whole announcement is that NCAA March Madness On Demand will be back, streaming live coverage of all games over the Internet and onto your iPhone and iPad App.
Now, how are the office pools going to deal with 4 play-in games? Most just toss out the Tuesday game this year, but starting next year those may actually count for something. Sure does not give us much time to fill out our brackets, does it?