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Thursday, April 22, 2010
68 teams? 68 teams!

By Eamonn Brennan

Forget what I just wrote, and forget your overwhelming sense of doom: The NCAA tournament is expanding in 2011, but only to 68 teams.

That's the upshot of this just-posted news release from the NCAA. As news broke this morning that CBS and Turner Sports had signed a new deal for the rights to an expanded NCAA tournament, the natural assumption was that the tournament would be expanding to the ever-dreaded 96-team format. Why bring on two networks if not to handle 16 extra tournament games, right? Actually, not so much:
Late Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase tournament field size to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 Championship. The recommendation will be reviewed by the Division I Board of Directors at its April 29 meeting.

In other words, 96 teams won't be in a 2011 NCAA tournament. That's not to say the tournament won't eventually expand -- if the money and willingness on the part of CBS and Turner is there, the NCAA could pass a similar recommendation for greater expansion in the years to come. But for now, and for at least one more year, 96 teams is not a reality. We thought wrong.

Overwhelming sense of doom? More like overwhelming sense of relief. For those opposed to an unwieldy 96-team postseason morass, this officially qualifies as fantastic news.