Recently, FTB thought it would be fun to preview the season by connecting with our fellow Big Ten bloggers to get their thoughts on various topics, both Big Ten-related and not.  This is the fifth in a series of five preview discussions that include input from 10 of the 11 Big Ten teams.  Northwestern was unavailable for comment

Question: What are your thoughts on the new 68-game tourney expansion?

Is this what economists mean when they say “growing the pie?” Anything that brings us closer a 96-team field gets a thumbs down from me. There’s already too many games for me to watch as it is. A few more automatic qualifiers get the bait-and-switch. Here they thought they had their ticket punched for Madness, but now have to play in these silly “First Four” matchups. I’m sorry but a Tuesday night in Dayton does not equal first round action. How about this unlucky sap seeded #5 who’s not sure which team he is going to play anymore? I am not old enough to remember the 48-team field, so 64 is what I know and like. And turn that music down, you whippersnappers!… On the bright side, 68 is better than 96. And I am excited to see Virginia Tech, who complains after every tourney snub, sneak into a #13 vs. #13 play-in game and get blasted by some team that is so ticked off about being lumped into the same purgatory as Virginia Tech..

– Phil Mitten, Bucky’s 5th Quarter (Wisconsin)

I think the NCAA had a chance to blow this but they did a good job. 68 teams gets a few more bubble teams in, and a lot of those teams could be a 2 point loss from a lock. When Penn State won the NIT I really believed that team could have made the 2nd or 3rd round with the right matchup. If the NCAA gets a few more of those teams into the tournament I think it makes it better for everybody. Teams like Virgina Tech won’t have to call Penn State up and say “thanks for sucking.”

– Ben Jones, Victory Bell Rings (Penn State)

I don’t like it. I am a traditionalist by nature and like the 64-team format that I grew up with. Adding more teams that don’t really deserve to be in the tournament is just a way to add to the NCAA’s coffers and artificially inflate the resumes of the schools and coaches that get in, due to expansion.

– Chad Nims, Planned Sick Days (Iowa)

I hate it. Why mess with a good thing? I would go back to 64, add the Great West Conference to give 32 auto bids and 32 at-large bids, and make any team that finished with a losing record in conference play ineligible unless they win the conference tournament.

– T-Mill, Hammer & Rails (Purdue)

I may be in the minority on this, but I think it was a good decision.  With the number of teams that have joined Division I basketball in the past 25 years a significant expansions was overdue, and I think having four at-large teams and four autobids play in the four play-in games was a good compromise.  This way low-major teams that are in the tournament due to a hot streak in their conference tournaments will need to play once, as will the mediocre at-larges.  I suspect that playing a game on Tuesday may be a benefit for the at-large teams however.

– Pete Rossman, The Only Colors (Michigan State)

I’m fine with it, if only because it saved us from 128-team awfulness. The Illini would have made it under these new rules last year, so I suppose that is a good thing (?) but I want to see more teams from mid-majors make it into the tournament rather than going to another Big Ten, Big East or ACC team. There is good basketball in the Horizon league outside of Butler. Conference USA and the MVC should all get two teams more often.

– Joe Kutsunis, Hail to the Orange (Illinois)

I think it’s a minor change but it shouldn’t hurt. I worry that it’s just a way to get a foot in the door before expanding the field to 96.

– Dylan Burkhardt, UM Hoops (Michigan)

Not very enthused about it, but we’ll see how it goes.  Maybe it will actually add an exciting new element to the tournament, but it is doubtful.  Teams like the Michigans and Minnesotas mentioned above may now get a better shot at playing their way into the tournament, but that may have the effect of taking away some of the excitement of the conference tournaments leading up to the tournament selections.  Maybe ESPN drove this change because they felt like Joe Linardi needed some more complexity in his job to earn his paycheck.

– Jay, The Buckeye Battle Cry (Ohio State)

The only thing I like about it is that they didn’t go to the disastrous 96-team format.  I really don’t like the idea of putting the last at-larges into play-in games.  If they must do the play-in games, they should be for the worst four teams in the tournament, i.e., the 15 and 16 seeds.  It seems silly to me that a team that finished .500 in the Big Ten should be forced to play into the “real” tournament while some team that went 18-15 in the SWAC gets the true NCAA experience.  But, the status quo wasn’t an option, so I suppose this is better than the 96-team format, which would have turned the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament into the competitive equivalent of the NIT.

– John M., Crimson Quarry (Indiana)

From the Barn’s take:

There are few things that are perfect in this world:  White Castle, Saturdays in the summer, and Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers to name a few.  The NCAA Tournament used to be one of those things.  Sure, the play-in game was kind of lame, but at least it was kind of a nice ramp-up to the real tournament.  And who actually cares how a 16-seed feels anyways, right?  With this 68-team abomination that we’ll now call March Madness, we have to wait until the Tuesday before the tournament to even know who the final seeds are.  Think of this, you may not even be able to fill out your bracket with a 12 over five-seed upset until you figure out who wins one of the “first four.”  In my eyes, anything that deviates from the cemented field of 64 is moving in the wrong direction and when Selection Sunday fails to showcase the tournament as it will be played four days later, we have problems.

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