Well the unfortunate hammer is coming down from the greedy overlords of the NCAA. With the CBS television contract on March Madness expiring and millions in potential revenue once again up for grabs, the NCAA's expansion to 96 teams is a "done deal" according to sources quoted in this post by Sports By Brooks.
It will be a sad, sad day for the NCAA Tournament if this officially comes to pass. Currently the NCAA can't even find 34 at-large teams to invite, so instead they'll invite 65 (the entire size of the current tournament field) and cross their fingers? This makes absolutely no sense.
But the shocking news is that this change could come as soon as NEXT season. And thus, it leaves Northwestern no choice but to make the NCAA Tournament in 2010.
Everyone knows by now that Northwestern has never made the NCAA Tournament. There has been so much talk about it that it's probably enough to make Jim Phillips' head explode. Yes, we know, the Wildcats haven't ever been in the (soon to be short-lived) field of of 65.
But how would making the field of 96 be an accomplishment? You know when the last time Northwestern was one of the top 96 teams in the nation? Last season according to Ken Pomeroy. The Wildcats were #70. Did they deserve an NCAA Tournament berth? No way. They got (almost) exactly what they deserved in a tough road game at Tulsa in the first round of the NIT.
If there were 96 teams then Northwestern wouldn't be on the bubble this season. The Wildcats are certainly one of the top 96 teams in the country. They're solidly inside of the Top 75 and that'd be enough. But it doesn't mean that it would be an accomplishment.
For instance, last season being in the Top 96 (according to Pomeroy) in the country meant:
- You were the third best team in the Horizon League (Wright State - #96)
- You were under .500 overall and 5-13 in the Big Ten (Iowa - #91)
- You were the number 5 team in Conference USA (UTEP - #83)
Do any of those sound like NCAA Tournament teams? I don't think so. This is a sad, sad day for the NCAA. If this comes to pass an institution will be ruined. Northwestern can't let the NCAA cheapen its accomplishment. The Wildcats need to make the tournament this season and dance the old fashioned way.