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NCAA tournament committee focused on 65, not 96

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UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has a tough enough job this week without imagining it being even more challenging.

The NCAA is discussing whether to expand the 65-team men's basketball tournament, a topic with no shortage of controversy and opinions. Guerrero, the chairman of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee, said expansion isn't on the minds of those who will select the 2010 tournament field this weekend.

"I can't speak for any of the other committee members, but I don't think there's anyone thinking about what might happen in the future," Guerrero said Wednesday.

Guerrero said that the immediate focus is on selecting the best 34 at-large teams. The first choices will be made Wednesday, and information will be gathered until the brackets are announced on Sunday.

Guerrero acknowledged that talk about expansion is constant.

"I believe that the discussion of expansion is sort of an evergreen topic, something that has always come to the forefront of the committee over the years," he said. "It's certainly heated up in present times."

The NCAA tournament expanded from 48 teams to 64 in 1985 and increased to the current 65-team bracket in 2001, when the number of automatic bids was increased from 30 to 31. Earlier this week, NCAA senior vice president Greg Shaheen said no decision has been made about the next step, if any.

Guerrero offered no details about what changes might take place, though much talk has centered on increasing the field to 96 teams.

"There needs to be a lot more discussion, a lot more deliberation on what could happen and what might happen," he said. "But it's pure speculation at this point."

Guerrero says he's too busy to worry about it.

"Frankly, from our perspective, we know what our task at hand is," Guerrero said. "I'm not trying to dodge the issue in any way, shape or form, but it's not a reality in our world right now."

Without expansion, the committee's job remains difficult as the talent level among the teams grows. There are 347 teams in Division I, and more mid-major teams have proven to be capable of competing against schools from larger conferences.

"There's a lot of parity across the country, a lot of teams that look alike," Guerrero said. "We will need to dig deep with all the nitty-gritty, all the information that we've been able to garner over the course of the season, both by watching games in person, on television, and of course by talking to each other."

Guerrero's biggest concern is how conference tournaments will affect which teams are available to gain at-large berths.

"We still have the tournaments to be played," he said. "The door stands open for any one of those teams, whether they're bluebloods or not bluebloods. The storyline's different from year to year. Each year is unique. I still think we need to see how things play out. That's the beauty of college basketball, that's the beauty of this tournament."

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  • Why Not
    There are already 32 teams in the NIT. Just eliminate the NIT and let those 32 play the 32 teams ceded 9-16 in NCAA as play in games to the NCAA. That is 16 more NCAA games probably split 8 on one day 8 on another. So the NCAA starts two days sooner. Sounds pretty good to me.
  • Quality
    I agree with Randy. Unlike footbal where can really debate did the best team win, the team that wins the tournament is always one of the 30 best teams in the country. Adding more teams would be like, trying to add even more spice to a dish just to find out that it made it worse not better.
  • Quality
    There's not 96 quality teams out there. There is barely enough to fill the 65 teams they have now. If you add more teams you are only watering down the tournament, not improving it.
  • Simplicity in the NCAA
    All other sports (sans football) in the NCAA rely on a true playoff system. With 32 conferences, you have already selected the 32 best teams in the country to play for a National Championship. Why complicate things with at-large voting and lobbying. You win your conference, you're in the playoffs. PERIOD. No more at-large-screwed-out-of-the-picture whiners. You want to play D1, join a conference. You want to play for a National Championship, win your conference title. Simplicity.

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