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Saturday, February 27, 2010
Mark Few also dislikes expansion

By Eamonn Brennan

Most coaches seem to love expansion. We've been over this before. Most people against expansion tend not to be in charge of basketball programs. They tend to be fans and media worried, with good reason, that expanding the tournament will ruin a good thing merely for the sake of the NCAA's bottom line. Coaches, on the other hand, see an easier route to the NCAA tournament (and thus less pressure to make the tournament) and have almost uniformly jumped on board.

Last weekend, Jim Calhoun broke the mold, saying he still wanted to hear a good argument for why expanding the NCAA tournament would actually make it better and not just more profitable. Add Gonzaga's Mark Few to Calhoun's company. Few spoke out against tournament expansion on Dan Patrick's radio show Friday, sounding a lot like most fans, who are pretty sure they like the NCAA tournament just the way it is, thanks:
"I like the way the tournament is right now," Few said. "I think it's an honor when that name flashes up there on Selection Sunday. It's a sense of accomplishment -- not everybody gets invited. I mean, just think of the teams that aren't going to make it this year. I think if we went to 96, you just totally lose that type of feeling and it would be so watered down that I think our regular season wouldn't have as much importance."

"There's a tremendous amount of expectations and pressure up here (in Spokane, Wash.) to make the tournament," he said. "So if it did go to 96 (teams), that would probably make my job a lot easier."

But Few also said that the excitement of the charge toward the tournament, including the madness that is the NCAA tournament bubble, could get lost in the shuffle if the field were expanded.

"Think about what we're dealing with here down the stretch ... Everybody is talking about 'well, do you think they have enough wins to get in' ... and all of a sudden you kind of lose that if we go the other direction."
I'm not sure Few's argument about the bubble is entirely valid. Even with 96 teams, there would still be a bubble. Would it be as rigorous? No. But it would be a definite bubble -- teams would need to play well to get in the tournament, and other teams would need to play poorly to miss out.

Still, though, it remains refreshing to hear a little dissent on the matter from someone who, like Calhoun, has every logical professional reason to push for expansion. Think of how much easier Mark Few's job would be if Gonzaga didn't need to be Gonzaga every year to get into the tournament. But expansion, if it happens, shouldn't be about making coaches' jobs easier. It should be about making the tournament better. Priorities, please.