Report: NCAA Unveils Men’s March Madness Expansion Plans with Additional 4-8 Teams

Scott LogoFeatured Columnist IVJune 19, 2024

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 08: A general view of the Final Four logo on the court during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Connecticut Huskies at State Farm Stadium on April 08, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments could be expanding as soon as the 2025-26 campaign.

Ross Dellenger of Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday that NCAA officials presented multiple models of potential expansion in regards to the men’s tournament to Division I conference commissioners. The expectation is the women’s tournament would follow suit if the men’s tournament expands.

One model featured four additional teams, expanding the current 68-team field to 72. The other featured eight additional teams, which would mean 76 teams in the field.

Dellenger noted there will not be any expansion until the 2025-26 season at the very earliest.

As Dellenger explained, there is a tricky balancing act when it comes to any expansion discussions.

On the one hand, power conferences that will receive the majority of the approximately $700 million the NCAA annually distributes to its schools want more at-large bids available to give more teams the opportunity to both pursue a championship and make additional revenue.

Additional revenue is particularly notable in today’s college sports environment following the the House v. NCAA case that paves the way for eventual revenue sharing with athletes.

On the other hand, the Big Dance is largely defined by small-conference schools that automatically qualify by winning their league’s tournaments then pulling off monumental upsets and capturing the hearts of sports fans across the country.

In order to avoid eliminating any of the 28 small-conference automatic qualifiers, NCAA leaders would expand the field to include at least one more First Four site with play-in games. That means more teams in the 10-12 seed range playing just one or two days before the traditional opening round with a 64-team bracket.

And it will also mean discussions about potentially relegating small-conference automatic qualifiers to said play-in tournament games, which they would surely be against in any discussions.

The most recent expansion moved the tournament from 64 teams to 68 teams in 2011, which led to the First Four that is traditionally held in Dayton, Ohio.

The First Four sees two pairs of 16 seeds face each other and two pairs of at-large selections face each other for coveted spots in the 64-team bracket that is so synonymous with March Madness. The women’s tournament eventually followed suit with an expansion to 68, although it didn’t happen until 2022.

At this point, expansion feels inevitable.

However, there is still plenty the NCAA officials and conference commissioners will have to work through in order to make it a reality.

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