So on ESPN Radio's show Greeny!, producer and co-host Paul Hembekides ... aka "Hembo" ... wanted to expand the NCAA Tournament to 112 teams. His plan was to have the top 16 teams get a first round bye with the other 96 teams beginning the tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday ... basically having a massive expansion of the First Four days.
That would mean there would be 24 games each held on Tuesday and Wednesday, and you would have to presume those games would be held at the sites already being used for the rest of the weekend (what is considered the Round of 64 and Round of 32). I assume that just because having a massive travel day to ship 48 schools all around the country to sites would be a logistical nightmare. This isn't the same as flying four teams from Dayton to their new destination.
I'm not a fan of tournament expansion ... and certainly not at that level. I can hear a proposal of eight more teams for a 76 team tournament where all 16 seeds battle in what is now known as the First Four and those "last four in" turns into a "last eight in" with four games with bubble teams battling it out. That gives a full day for Tuesday and Wednesday for games in Dayton (with those 16-seeds playing during the afternoon, if possible) and just a small amount more teams needing to travel. But really nothing more than that ... and I'm not really into it.
But to humor what Hembo put out there, let's go ahead and map out what a 112 team tournament would actually look like. And I will use Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology (February 27th) for the 68 teams he has in and his "First Four Out" and "Next Four Out" to get to 76 teams (ya know, my expansion). From there, I will add the next 36 teams ranked in the NET to fill out the brackets. So here we go:
5-Dayton vs 28-Norfolk State
6-Saint Mary's vs 27-Merrimack
7-Washington State vs 26-Morehead State
8-Oklahoma vs 25-High Point
9-New Mexico vs 24-UC Irvine
10-Northwestern vs 23-Indiana State
11-Wake Forest vs 22-Miami*
12-Colorado vs 21-UNLV*
13-Ole Miss vs 20-Memphis*
14-Pitt* vs 19-St. Bonaventure*
15-James Madison* vs 18-Washington*
16-Seton Hall* vs 17-Butler*
4-San Diego State
5-Texas Tech vs 28-Eastern Kentucky
6-Kentucky vs 27-Colgate
7-South Carolina vs 26-Oakland
8-FAU vs 25-Yale
9-TCU vs 24-Samford
10-Nevada vs 23-Grand Canyon
11-Butler vs 22-George Mason*
12-Villanova vs 21-Louisiana Tech*
13-Utah vs 20-Minnesota*
14-St. John's* vs 19-Richmond*
15-McNeese vs 18-UCF*
16-Iowa* vs 17-Oregon*
5-Clemson vs 28-Sam Houston
6-Colorado State vs 27-Quinnipiac
7-Michigan State vs 26-Vermont
8-Utah State vs 25-Akron
9-Mississippi State vs 24-Florida State*
10-Virginia vs 23-LSU*
11-South Florida vs 22-Boston College*
12-Providence vs 21-Syracuse*
13-Texas A&M vs 20-NC State*
14-SMU* vs 19-Kansas State*
15-Virginia Tech* vs 18-Maryland*
16-Texas A&M* vs 17-Xavier*
5-Wisconsin vs 28-Grambling State
6-BYU vs 27-South Dakota State
7-Florida vs 26-Eastern Washington
8-Texas vs 25-Charleston
9-Boise State vs 24-Appalachian State
10-Nebraska vs 23-Loyola (Ill)*
11-Seton Hall vs 22-UMass*
12-Gonzaga vs 21-North Texas*
13-Drake vs 20-VCU*
14-Cincinnati vs 19-Ole Miss*
15-Princeton* vs 18-Ohio State*
16-San Francisco* vs 17-Bradley*
While this isn't a perfectly seeded bracket, this is just to make a point. The final at-large team to get in was Florida State, who is 14-13 on the season. Yes, 14-13. For some reason we feel that a 14-13 team in the ACC deserves to have a chance to play in a tournament that crowns the sport's national champion. And if you look at these additions, do any of them really move the needle? Sure, put NCAA tournament games on at any time and people will watch ... but will they care? Will they really? I mean, people complain about all those bowl games but they want Pitt-St. Bonaventure?
So that's how the teams look ... but let's look at the logistics. Keeping the current pod format, you would have to have six games in each site on Tuesday and Wednesday. Again, that's impossible. You can schedule four games at these arenas, but not six. To keep this moving, let's just say there's an overflow arena near each site to have these games.
A place like Indianapolis could have two venues host games. The other seven pod sites really can't. There would need to be somewhere close for the overflow. Charlotte could have ... Raleigh? Winston-Salem? Greenville, SC? Memphis could have Nashville? Salt Lake City has ... Boise? This would be something to consider. Like I said earlier, if your answer is to have another set of sites hosting the Tuesday and Wednesday games then the NCAA has quite a logistical feat to navigate through. That is 48 games to play in a two day time frame that also needs to seamlessly plug back into the main bracket.
How do I mean this? Well using the projected field, Houston (No. 1 seed in the South region) and Alabama (No. 3 seed in the Midwest region) will used Memphis, Tennessee as their pod site. That means that the winners of these games: Texas A&M-Xavier, Utah State-Akron and Mississippi State-Florida State will be in Memphis for the Round of 64 alongside Houston, while the winners of Pitt-St. Bonaventure, Saint Mary's-Merrimack and Wake Forest-Miami would also be in Memphis to join Alabama. Those games would be played on Friday, meaning the six games feeding into that would be played on Wednesday.
Where would they be played?
If Memphis, then how do you play six games in one day at one site? You can't. So what's the plan? Will the NCAA add another round of sites and ask 48 teams to travel twice in one week with all of that happening in a day between games? Imagine Saint Mary's-Merrimack being played at noon on Wednesday (by the way, these two schools are on opposite ends of the country) then have to get to a new site (Memphis, in this case) in one day. So play a game, travel, play another game. When are they supposed to prepare for their next opponent? And in Saint Mary's-Merrimack's case they'd be playing the winner of Wake Forest-Miami ... so they won't know their next opponent until hours later.
There are solutions. Playing these first round games on campuses isn't one of them (again, imagine Merrimack having to travel to Saint Mary's). Maybe the NCAA has sub sites near the pod sites to feed into the main pod site. So for Memphis, maybe Nashville and Birmingham are their sub-sites. So the South Region Memphis teams can play in Birmingham while the Midwest Region Memphis teams play in Nashville ... all on Wednesday. Honestly, you really only need one sub-site since Memphis could be also used. So let's just match each region with a partner for two of the six games. Some of the sites could use another local arena ... albeit smaller to accommodate the games.
Charlotte, for example, could play games at the Spectrum Center as planned with two games at UNC-Charlotte's Halton Arena. Pittsburgh can use PPG Paints Arena as planned with two games at the University of Pittsburgh's arena. If that's not an option, there are nearby cities that are appropriate.
The only other option would to have Dayton-style formats of a group of cities being used to house two days of tournament action. Indianapolis, of course, would be a great place to have that. With several options to house games, Indiana's capital could be a great option to have 24 of those 48 games over two days. So Lucas Oil Stadium, Gainbridge Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse could each have four games on Tuesday and four more on Wednesday. A place like Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, etc could also make that happen.
Either way, this is a lot and a lot to put these players through in a week. And for games nobody wants.