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Home - The Crime of 65

  The Crime of 65

ncaa basketballFrom 1985-2000 the NCAA tournament operated on a 64 team basis. The number made a lot of sense. The games are played down from rounds of 64 to 32 to16 to 8 to 4 to 2 to 1. The teams in the tournament could be eligible in one of two ways. Teams could automatically qualify by winning their league championship. Anyone who didn’t win their league would go into the pool of at large candidates and would be filled by a committee. (There are 31 conference champions receiving automatic births and 34 at-large births.)

In 2001, a new conference was added to Division-I basketball. This meant that from now on there would be one more automatic birth going to a conference champion and one less birth go to an at large team. This would not stand with everyone.

Primarily, the at-large teams came from the so called “power conferences”. Essentially they are the conferences with the bigger schools and have more money and influence. These schools did not want to lose one of “their” at-large births the tournament to an upstart small conference.

The solution became to add a play-in game between the 64th and 65th rated teams in the RPI (a statistical rating system), with the winner getting into the field of 64. For a college competition, this really sends the wrong message. Kids at Alabama State, Drexel, and Florida A&M already feel like they don’t belong in the system and this decision just reinforces that. No matter what they do teams like UCLA, North Carolina and Kansas will always be able to recruit the best players. But, they still should have to earn their accolades on the court. All the smaller schools want is a shot on the biggest stage.

It should be noted that the Women’s NCAA tournament, which typically parallels the Men’s, did not adopt the 64 vs. 65 play-in game.

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