Jim Larranaga has proposal for 96 team NCAA Tournament

Mar 17, 2022; Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 17, 2022; Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

Appearing on Hurricanes Weekly with Miami play-by-play announcer Joe Zagacki, head basketball coach Jim Larranaga stated his idea for a 96-team NCAA Tournament. Larranaga would like to see the NCAA Tournament expanded by 28 teams with the 32 automatic qualifiers receiving first-round byes.

The idea by Jim Larranaga would basically eliminate the 32-team NIT. How the teams would be seeded with 32 automatic qualifiers would be difficult. Using the 2022 NCAA Tournament as an example a team like St. Peter’s would receive a first-round bye and would not have played Kentucky in the first round.

College basketball teams that win their regular-season conference title but lose in the tournaments in one-bid leagues would be nearly guaranteed to receive NCAA Tournament at-large berths but have to play in the first round. A team like St. Peter’s who as a 15 seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament would receive a first-round bye.

Eighteen of the 32 automatic qualifiers were seeded 13th or lower in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Three of the four 12 seeds were also automatic qualifiers. Only five of the top 16 seeds in the 2022 NCAA Tournament were automatic qualifiers. Auburn and USC who Miami played in the first two rounds were at-large invitees.

"“What we really need in my opinion is to expand the NCAA Tournament ’cause there’s so many very qualified teams that don’t get invited. Because 68 teams and you’ve got to realize this, 32 of them won their conference tournament and they’re called automatic qualifiers and you’re automatically in if you win your conference tournament.The others are called at large and you get an invitation. There are only 36 of those. That’s not a lot…only 20 percent get invited to the dance. My suggestion is we need a whole other round. We need 32 teams in addition to the 64. That will give us 96.My suggestion would be is you give the automatic qualifiers a bye and give them the right to battle to play the conference champions. In that case, you add, not quite 32, it’s more like 28 you are adding…Instead of playing a First Four, you would have a full round of games on Tuesday and Wednesday.”"

It would create a difficult dynamic for seeding the field. Who would teams that were seeded in the bottom four of each region play in the round of 64? The four 16th seeded teams who played in the First Four in Dayton last week would all receive byes into the round of 64 according to the Jim Larranaga proposal.

Iowa and Kansas were the only two of the top 11 seeds in the Midwest Regional in Chicago where Miami plays Iowa State on Friday night that were automatic qualifiers. Iowa was eliminated in the first round by Richmond. Richmond lost to Providence who plays the other game on Friday night in Chicago.

Logistically it would be difficult to seed the teams in a fair way to keep the tournament balanced. Some team would be in a better place to play 16 seeds who won their conference tournaments than a team who would have to play Arizona, Gonzaga, or Kansas who all were automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Tournament.

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It’s an intriguing idea but not likely to come to fruition because it would be unfair and not balanced for the major conference teams. A more likely scenario in the future could be the elimination of the NIT and an additional 28 teams added to the NCAA Tournament from that. They are concepts for further NCAA Tournament expansion.