We’ve seen a lot of talk about “bubbles” in the sports world during the COVID-19 crisis. If the ACC coaches get their way, the bubble we usually think of when it comes to college basketball won’t be a concern for any team come NCAA Tournament time next year.
Right now, the NCAA is figuring out how to have a college basketball season played amid the virus. NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt has expressed a lot of confidence that the season will be played, and we won’t miss March Madness for a second straight year. In this situation, having top-down, centralized leadership from the NCAA may actually help matters, vs. college football which is run as something of a free-for-all by conference.
Even so, it doesn’t sound like we’ll be getting your classic college basketball season, with non-conference games and early season tournaments running through November and December, before a roughly 10-week conference season, conference tournaments, and then the Big Dance. As a result, the ACC coaches believe we need a different tournament this year, one that includes every single Division I team.
The league’s 15 coaches reportedly voted unanimously to have an “all-inclusive” NCAA Tournament in 2021. Considering this group includes legends like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, all Hall of Famers, and other stalwarts like UVA’s Tony Bennett, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton, and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, their collective opinion should hold some weight. “This is a unique time and it’s time to do something different,” Boeheim told Jeff Goodman of Stadium about the proposal. It is certainly something different, if nothing else.
BREAKING: The ACC coaches will propose an all-inclusive NCAA tournament, sources told @stadium. The coaches just finished the call and voted unanimously on this.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) September 9, 2020
Given the potential for an abbreviated regular season, there is a chance this would be a more fair way to do things, given that teams may not be able to provide the same amount of data for the selection committee that they normally would. It could also be treated as something of a celebration of sports and college basketball, in a year where we could definitely use some more celebrations. It could also be a boon for athletic departments across the country, after all of the lost revenue in college athletics from the pandemic.
I'm skeptical but just talked to an ACC source who really thinks there's a good chance the NCAA go for a 353-team NCAA Tournament. The league is unanimously behind it from commissioner on down.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 9, 2020
Playing a tournament with ~350 teams provides more hurdles for executing a tournament though, especially if the NCAA looks to bubble options for different pods and regions. There is also a concern that it waters down the product, with some of those early round games now being significant mismatches.
This might be the worst idea I've heard in a long time. If the season starts Nov. 25 there is plenty of time for teams to prove their worth. Why devalue your best product? https://t.co/j4qJdK6HBK
— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) September 9, 2020
There are certainly arguments to be had on both sides of the ACC proposal, but you can’t say it isn’t an intriguing idea. We’ll see what the NCAA thinks about it.