Matt Norlander and I gave you our takes Thursday on the NCAA tournament expanding to 68 teams. Here's a sampling of some of our favorite columns from around the web in the wake of the NCAA's bombshell announcement:
Mike DeCourcy, The Sporting News: What those who believe in college basketball desired throughout this process was for those in charge to protect the integrity of the regular season and the character of the NCAA Tournament as it has existed for the past quarter-century-the period of time during which the game and the event reached their greatest popularity. Turns out, they were listening. Nobody came out and said the public's revulsion at the prospect of a 96-team field was a factor in settling on 68, but if you'd loved the idea like chocolate-chip cookies, we'd be talking about a far different NCAA Tournament next March. It wasn't at the start of negotiations that someone with CBS/Turner suggested a 68-team tournament would be workable with the dollar amounts being discussed. That came after the general public declared 96 teams to be a product no more appealing than the XFL. Now, both Sean McManus of CBS Sports and David Levy of Turner assure us 68 is workable for them. "We are very comfortable at 68," McManus said. "That's what the deal is based on. It meets all of our needs."
Dana O'Neil, ESPN.com: While the NCAA is riding the good-decision train, might we pose that the people in Indianapolis pay the goodwill forward even further by making the bubble teams play the real bubble games? Shaheen said that who plays in the additional games and how those teams will be selected won't be determined until the NCAA goes through the rest of its procedural channels. An announcement likely won't be made until this summer. Here's a solution: Let the last eight in play the first four games. No more punishing teams that earn automatic bids by making them travel to Dayton and play in the hoops version of a tree falling in a forest – if no one watches and the game has to float in some sort of unattached and amorphous area on the bracket, does it really count as an NCAA tournament game?
Brett McMurphy, AOL Fanhouse: In somewhat of an upset – not a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed, mind you – but the leader of the conference that probably would have benefited the most from a 96-team field was actually glad the NCAA didn't super-size its bracket. "I applaud the NCAA for preserving the character, integrity and eloquence of the current men's basketball championship and not diluting its stature as one of America's greatest athletic events," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said from Scottsdale, Ariz., where he's attending the BCS meetings. Marinatto's league, which had eight teams in this year's 65-team field, conceivably would have gotten as many as 13 of its 16 league teams in a 96-team field this season. "Although it may sound counter intuitive for me to say this given our prominence in basketball, we were concerned about a radical expansion of the field and how that could damage this great event's stature and student-athlete academic welfare," Marinatto said.
Richard Sandomir, New York Times: CBS and Turner – TNT, TBS and truTV – needed each other to mount a serious challenge to ESPN. The sports media landscape has changed drastically in the three decades that CBS has carried part or all of the men's basketball tournament. Sports have moved increasingly to cable, most conspicuously to ESPN. It had become archaic for the men's basketball tournament, which gets outsize attention for its three-week yearly run, to be shown on one broadcast network that needed to resort to regional coverage of so many early games. "The tournament's success outgrew one network's ability to provide the coverage fans were looking for," David Levy, the president of Turner Sports, said.
Jeff Goodman, FoxSports.com: "It's a missed opportunity to include more student-athletes in the tournament," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. It was also an opportunity to water down the tourney by adding another 30 or so teams that just aren't worthy of inclusion. That's an opportunity worth missing, especially after this past season, when the small number of bubble teams had little-to-no justification for getting into the Big Dance. Just imagine if the field were at 96 this past season. A mediocre North Carolina team would have been a virtual lock, and the woeful Pac-10 would have had at least half of its representatives included in the field.
Pat Forde, ESPN.com: The leadership has done one of two things: 1. It purposefully overplayed the likelihood of a 96-team NCAA tournament field to make the expansion to 68 teams seem wonderfully palatable in comparison. 2. It actually listened to the severe and sincere backlash to the idea of a 96-team field and opted for safer ground. Whatever the case, I'll give the NCAA credit. It either was more savvy or more receptive than I had given the institution credit for previously.