Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Donovan wouldn't mind tourney expansion
By Eamonn Brennan
The biggest college hoops rumor of the past week or so -- besides all the John Wall stuff, I guess -- is the suddenly realistic possibility that the NCAA will expand the tournament to 96 teams if it opts out of its current TV contract in coming years. It's nowhere near a done deal, but it is on the minds of just about everyone in the college hoops world, because if there's one thing guaranteed to get college basketball folks up in arms, it's talk of messing with the sport's ultimate event.
Plenty of fans will be outraged at the idea. Plenty of media types will rail against the move as a way of watering down the tournament for the sake of even more cash. (Which is probably valid.) But for every angry fan and columnist there will be at least one coach like Billy Donovan, who thinks this whole 64-team thing is just too gosh-darned competitive.
"I felt bad for our kids the last couple of years. You’re right there, a game or two away from maybe being in and then they don’t get a chance to go," Donovan said.
"And then there’s a perception that if you’re in the NIT, it’s quote-unquote a loser’s tournament. And I think that any time you expand something, where you’re playing for that main trophy that everyone’s trying to play for, I think it’s always good to have more opportunities for more people."Not to be too harsh here, but I agree with Andrew Sharp and newly appointed Dagger editor Jeff Eisenberg: Uh, Billy? The NIT is a loser's tournament. You know it. Your players know it. And your fans know it. No one's going to hate on getting a few additional competitive games at the end of the year, but let's not pretend the NIT is anything other than a consolation. Sorry, but it's true.
If we're going to expand the tournament, fine. It's not the worst thing in the world. Every year a few deserving teams are snubbed for one reason or another, and if an added weekend of tournament play helps us sort that out on the court, sure. I can dig it. There are plenty of good mid-major teams who can't get out of their conference tournament and don't get the same consideration as the mediocre seventh- or eighth-best teams in major conferences. Rectifying that through expansion seems like a net positive.
But if the argument is that it's just too darn mean to a group of college players like Florida's -- highly trained competitive athletes all their lives, all of whom already know that losing is part of sports and that not everybody gets to win all the time -- I don't buy it. This isn't tee-ball. No one brings grape soda for a postgame treat. And you don't get a trophy for participating.
Sorry, guys, but everyone's not a winner. Bad self-esteem is no reason to expand the NCAA tournament.