UK alum Tom Leach has been the play-by-play "Voice of the Wildcats" for the football Cats for 12 years and nine years for men's basketball. He is a four-time winner of the Kentucky Sportscaster of the Year award. Tom offers an entertaining and insightful perspective into UK athletics. Column entries will be posted twice per week through April. Read Tom's full biography
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The expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams looks inevitable. In this economy, there's no way the NCAA folks are getting more money out of CBS, or anyone else for that matter, so the only way to increase revenues is to expand the number of games offered for telecast.
Personally, I don't get too worked up about this debate. Yes, I'd like to see little or no change -- maybe add three more play-in games and expand to 68 would be the least disruptive way to grow. But there's no use tilting at windmills here -- expansion is coming.
What they're essentially doing is folding the National Invitation Tournament into the NCAA Tournament and just adding one more round of games, with the top eight seeds getting byes (eventually, this will open the door to expansion to a fully balanced 128-team bracket).
As a fan, it's fun to listen to the annual bubble debates but this expansion would seem to put the Joe Lunardis of the world out of a job. Are you really interested in debating who's the 96th-best team? The other thing this does, to me, is further decrease the significance of conference tournaments.
Years ago, I was a purist arguing against the postseason league tourneys but then I started attending them and saw how much fun they are for the fans. It's like it was for me and my friends going to the state tournament when we were in high school. And it's something that is fun for the fans, I'm all for it. With an expanded NCAA Tournament, will more fans -- other than those from UK probably -- save their money and attend the NCAA Tournament, which surely about any SEC team with a winning record will not qualify for?
I'm rooting for a Butler-West Virginia matchup in the national championship game -- but I'm picking Michigan State v. Duke.
Both semifinal games Saturday figure to be close. Tom Izzo has had a week to prepare for Butler and I think that will help give Michigan State an edge, plus the Spartans may well be the most physical team Butler has seen on its improbable run to the Fina Four.
As for the other game, West Virgina has allowed only 17 three-point baskets in four tournament games but Duke makes its living at the arc. The Mountaineers had a freakishly good first-half shooting the three against Kentucky but that's not the kind of thing one would expect to be repeated. WVU won't win a shootout with Duke, so Huggy Bear better find a way to keep throwing ice on these shooters or the Blue Devils will advance.
By the way, I saw a note on espn.com that said Butler and West Virginia have the lowest tournament shooting percentages (both under 41 percent) of any Final Four participants since 1985.