I’ve been fairly surprised by the general level of hatred for the idea of a 96-team NCAA Tournament. In the midst of one of the craziest March Madnesses (would it be Madnessi? Not really sure on the pluralization here.) in recent memory, it comes out that Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany says expansion will probably happen, and people aren’t excited.

I don’t get it.

More is always better, right?

I’ve heard all the cons. It’s going to water down the first couple rounds of the tournament. I don’t buy it. First, there’s something amazingly fun about tuning in to CBSsports.com during class for the first weekend of the tournament. And the expansion will just give us more of the hectic sensory overload of the first two rounds.

You’re on game overload at that point, and, it doesn’t really matter that No. 1s are putting a beating on No. 16s, because, with that many simultaneous tipoffs, there’s bound to be some interesting storyline to follow.

It’s my favorite part of the tournament because it’s just so engaging. And I think adding 32 more teams will have the opposite effect of what some naysayers are predicting. We’ll just have more games to watch, that’s all.

I don’t think it’ll alter the level of competition in the early rounds too much, especially after the formula has been in place for a few years and teams like Southeastern Indiana State (I’m pretty sure that’s a made-up school) get used to making the Big Dance.

Second, people think it’ll make the regular season irrelevant.

Here’s the thing: With 96 teams in the field of play, there’s still 251 teams that will be watching the festivities from home. It’s not like the NCAA is handing out bids like they’re degrees from Michigan State. Even post-expansion, teams are still going to have to work for it.

A team like North Carolina, for example, wouldn’t have just been given a free pass into the tournament this year. There’s plenty of schools out there that posted great regular seasons that deserve a shot at being on this stage — maybe they’re not going to win the whole thing, but so what? The experience is something they can tell their grandkids about.

I’ll level with you for a second. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea when I heard the first rumors circulating the Internet.

But, as a self-identifying optimist, I’m going to find the bright side. And there definitely is one with a 96-team tournament. I’m sure there was the same level of skepticism when they expanded to 64.

They’re going to expand — there’s too much money at stake not to.

It’s going to be fine. March is still going to be mad, and in three years, I can all but guarantee you that no one will be ruing the day they added another weekend to the craziest tournament in sports.

After all, it’ll give all you college kids yet another reason not to pay attention in class.

— Reid also predicts that, with 32 more teams in, Michigan will HAVE to make the tournament more often than every ten years. He can be reached at andyreid@umich.edu

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