A 128 Team Tournament is Too Much Madness


More teams in March Madness could lead to more drastic upsets, but will make the tournament far less prestigious.

By Andrea Garcia

More teams in March Madness could lead to more drastic upsets, but will make the tournament far less prestigious.

The Final Four, the Elite Eight and the Sweet Sixteen. The last stages of March Madness, as in any other tournament, promote a level of exclusivity that rewards teams. Making it that far in a postseason tournament is a special moment that teams cherish, and it validates student-athletes that work hard on and off the court.

Teams head into March Madness with the goal of winning it all. But it’s still an honor for a team to make the tournament. This privilege is extended to 64 teams each year, so what could be wrong about extending the tournament by another round, starting with 128 teams competing to make it to the next round of 64? Could “the more, the merrier” apply here? If the NCAA tournament were extended by another round, it would not be the first time that the tournament changed formats. Most recently, the tournament was extended from a 32 team format to a 64 team format in 1985. While people were unsure about that expansion, I feel safe saying that in 2018 there’s just more March Madness for people to obsess over, in the most casual sense of obsession.

However, I would not predict the same for a tournament with 128 teams. I dare say it almost welcomes too many teams into what is otherwise considered a selective tournament. I love basketball and March Madness, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The expansion could not conceivably add teams of higher caliber; those teams have already earned their respective playoff appearances. Rather, it would add more teams to the lower end of the seedings. As standard, the lower-seeded teams will get matched with the higher-seeded teams in order to weed out the perceived weak. You’ll have the top seeded, historically-successful programs facing off against 32-seed teams. Even typing “32-seed” doesn’t sit well with me.

I’ll admit that an expansion would give another shot to teams that just missed the selection cut, but this would be only a handful of teams from the 64 teams added by introducing a 128-game format. Granted there might be some close action in close-seeded games toward the middle of each regional bracket, but the addition of a first round of 128, which also does not bode well while typing, would waste players’ energy that would otherwise be conserved for higher-profile games that actually matter. It’s unimaginable that the majority of the 64 additional teams will stand a chance in the long run.

Arguably, witnessing Cinderella outcomes make March Madness worth watching, and I’ll point anyone who disagrees with me to this past week’s UMBC-UVA game. But, if it has taken eight NCAA tournaments for a 16-seed to beat a 1-seed since the 2011 reformatting, then how long will it take for a 32-seed to truly challenge a 1-seed? I won’t make that prediction unless this 128-game format is introduced, but I will be quick to say that the outcomes from the first round of such a tournament would be easily-predicted. I imagine that the most, if not all, games would easily favor the higher-seeded teams, almost too easily.

If this format is introduced, then March Madness would follow 127 total games, as opposed to 63 games under the current tournament structure. That’s a little more than twice the basketball we’re already processing. And given the addition of lower-ranked teams, I have to question how many of those games would even be worth watching. I personally would choose higher-quality games rather than more games overall. Easy wins for successful teams aren’t quality games that people enjoy watching. Who wants to watch the Pats win another Super Bowl? As a notoriously die-hard Yankees fan, I don’t see anyone other than Yankees fans holding their breath for the Bombers’ 28th World Series win.

That said, this first round would only benefit fans of teams who blissfully hope that their lower-seeded teams can break brackets. Is it worth giving them the shot, or would it just waste the energy of teams that are already more likely to advance anyways? I would argue the latter, but I do sympathize with the fans of the first round underdogs.

It would make sense to add more teams and allow them to take the spotlight, until you realize that the 128-team expansion would not add any teams that are likely to take home the trophy. Adding another round of March Madness just adds an exhausting hoop for the teams that are more likely to win and does not ensure more quality games worth watching. In fact, I would foresee the opposite: another round, thus tiring out teams more in the long run. The result of adding an extra first round of 128 teams would be pure madness.

Andrea Garcia, FCRH ‘18, is a political science and journalism major from West Milford, New Jersey.