Currently, the NCAA Division I men's college basketball tournament fields 65 teams, accommodating 31 conference champions and 34 at-large bids. The whole thing lasts three weeks, with two rounds played each weekend.
It is, aside from the Super Bowl, the nation's biggest sporting event, with diehard fans pitting their picks against those from people who don't know a screen-and-roll from a box-and-one.
The Badgers have made the field every year since 1999, including all nine years under head coach Bo Ryan, so fans here tend to take the tournament for granted. But ask North Carolina, which won it all last year but owns a 16-15 record this year, how it feels to be left out of the "Big Dance."
Now there's a movement under way to expand the tournament to as many as 96 teams. Ryan has been a vocal proponent, going so far as to label those who prefer the current tourney as "ill-prepared intellectually." He notes that whereas over half of all college football teams play in bowl games, less than 20% of Division I hoops teams are similarly rewarded with a tournament spot.
Ryan, a board member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is carrying water for his peers, many of whom are under heavy pressure to make the cut. More slots means fewer firings each year.
But it also means less excitement over who gets picked, and less enthusiasm for the slate of conference tournaments. Adding more teams takes a little of the madness out of March, and who wants that?