It was expected the board would rubber-stamp the expansion of the tournament that the men’s basketball committee suggested last week.
Now the NCAA must decide how the new format will work. It’s widely assumed the tournament will add three opening-round games to the one already played.
At issue is which eight teams will be put in the opening round. Could it be eight champions of mid-major conferences, or the final eight at-large teams to get in the tournament?
The former proposal could affect leagues such as the America East or the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, who would have to win a game to get into the 64-team field.
Although there’s a stigma to being relegated to the “play-in game,” America East commissioner Patrick Nero pointed out that under the current system, the winner of an opening-round game earns an extra $1.2 million dollars for the conference it represents spread over a six-year period.
Nero also suggested the NCAA might rather put eight at-large teams in the opening round because it could garner higher television ratings due to better-known schools participating.
“For TV purposes, Virginia Tech against Illinois could be a better game than Winthrop and Arkansas-Pine Bluff,” said Nero, referring to this year’s opening-round game. “If you’re a TV network, which would you prefer?”
Nero also said he’d like to know whether the opening-round games would continue to be played in Dayton, or if they’d be held at one of the regional sites, before the rest of the tournament starts.
“They’ve done a very good job in Dayton,” Nero said. “I wouldn’t want an atmosphere created that makes (opening-round) teams feel like they’re not a part of the overall tournament.”