Expand or stand pat? NCAA faces dilemma about increasing tournament field as ratings soar

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The boffo television ratings coming in for both the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments will add even more fuel to the roiling debate within college athletics about whether to expand the postseason.

On one side, proponents will see opportunity to squeeze even more revenue out of an event that seems to grow and grow regardless of the chaos currently engulfing the administrative side of college athletics.

On the other, some influential voices in the sport see what’s going on this March and wonder why the NCAA should mess with a good thing at all.

“Let’s slow down a little bit here,” one of them told USA TODAY Sports, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity around these discussions. “Why rush into changing the tournament? We can afford to let this play out.”

The expansion push, largely coming from power conference commissioners who have concerns about tournament access as their leagues become 16- or 18-team behemoths next year, is going to remain a dominant storyline until the NCAA makes a decision.

But the emotional heat around that issue will completely overshadow the more important questions college administrators should be asking themselves: How can the massive public interest in the tournament boost the core product they offer during the regular season? And how would an expansion of the tournament figure into the larger strategy of bringing college basketball back into the mainstream?

Here’s what we know: The best of college basketball is about as good as it gets in sports, and there’s a huge audience for it at the highest level.

Nielsen said 15.1 million people watched North Carolina State defeat Duke in the men’s Elite Eight, the largest number for any Easter Sunday telecast since 2013. Overall, the men’s tournament is averaging 9.4 million viewers across the four networks that broadcast it, about a 4 percent increase fro last year’s event.

Purdue center Zach Edey (15) and guard Fletcher Loyer (2) battle for a rebound against…

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Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/expand-stand-pat-ncaa-faces-114000235.html

Author : USA TODAY Sports

Publish date : 2024-04-04 11:40:00

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