By Eric D. Graham
Updated: April 5, 2008

2008 Final Four

NORTH CAROLINA — ESPN analyst and former Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight recently suggested that the NCAA should go to a 128-team tournament instead of the current 64-team format currently in place.

Knight’s theory of 128-team tournament, in his opinion would alleviate bubble teams from complaining about not making the tournament as well as eliminate the NCAA selection committee’s non-mathematical ratings system.

The NCAA tournament has expanded a number of times in the last 65 seasons. From 1939 to 1950, eight teams were invited. It was increased to 16 in 1951 and varied from 22 to 25 teams between 1953 to 1974.

The field would increase again to 32 teams in 1975, 40 teams in 1979, and 48 teams in 1980. By 1983, the field grew to 52 teams, with four play-in games before the tournament. A year later, the field became 53 teams with five play-in games before the tournament.

By 1985, the field increased to 64 teams and by 2001, the current field of 65 teams with an “opening round” game to determine whether the 64th or 65th team plays in the first round was instituted. In fact, prior to 1975, only one team per conference could be in the NCAA tournament Knight’s concept of a 128-team tournament would require only one addition day to play the games before reaching the magic number of 64 teams. Financially, NCAA would also make even more money during this extension of “March Madness”.

The 128-team tournament format would also eliminate the National Invitation Tournament (N.I.T.) and newly created College Basketball Invitational that only serve as consolation prizes for teams who were considered not good enough to make the NCAA Tournament.

Some fear if Knight’s campaign for 128-team tournament is accepted, winning the conference championship will have little or no importance to some teams and the “Cinderella” magic of March Madness will be lost.

Knight’s formula seems feasible despite all the criticism because even with all the ratings, the current formula has all the top seeds in the tournament playing in the Final Four.