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Item 8 of NCAA Basketball: Mideast Regional, March 13-15, 1980

Part of University of Kentucky Basketball Programs (Men)

Bigger and Better NCAA tournament expands to 48 teams by Dave Dorr St. Louis Post-Dispatch Each year you believe the tournament has achieved the millennium. Quite obviously it has not. Wayne Duke, 1979 Absolutely no one who has experienced the NCAA basketball championship in even the most remote sense of the word, whether it be just a brush as a spectator from the edges or those who have felt intimately the throb of excitement on the floor as players, would dispute that statement. This athletic event, which matured mightily in the decade of the 1970s, has forced itself into the American sports consciousness with the drama and grandeur seldom before known in basketball. Anytime. Anywhere. It has been shaped by the feelings, emotions and ideas of a few men, becoming an impelling challenge for them to keep the tournament at a high level. Their opinions, not always acceptable to all, have meant changes that they believe to be for the best. Too, the changes have not always been met with acceptance. Nonetheless, the tournament continues to progress; an event that can be measured both by the ingenuity and the frailties of those who steer it on a course that certainly has not wavered much in the last few years. They are human traits; they are to be expected. Consider this observation of Wayne Duke, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference and one of the men who sit in judgment of the teams that await imitations each March from the NCAA Division I Basketball Committee: "There are other sports events that have earned the support and attention of large numbers of people, but no event has captured the emotion and excitement of the entire nation as has the National Collegiate basketball championship. It is the single greatest collegiate sports event of the year. . ." Duke is chairman of the committee that administers the tournament. As one might surmise, the job of the current committee is a far cry from that of the men who doggedly pursued the idea of a national championship way back there in 1938. The embryonic years vividly are portrayed in a marvelous book, "The Classic" (NCAA, the Lowell Press), superbly researched by writer Ken Rappoport. Rappoport describes the dominant role of Harold Olsen, the Ohio State basketball coach, who proposed the idea for such a tournament in a letter to the National Association of Basketball Coaches. It was not an idle daydream. Eight teams, representing each of the NCAA's eight geographical districts, played in the first tournament in 1939 at Northwestern University. The eight-team format was used until 1951, when it was doubled. From that start, the field has grown to the 48 that began competition this year en route to the Final Four at Market Square Arena. The tournament has expanded three times since 1974: From 25 to 32 in 1975, from 32 to 40 in 1979 and from 40 to 48 for the 1980 tournament. Besides increasing the size of the 1980 tournament, the rule limiting the number of teams that can be selected from a conference to two was rescinded. A major factor in the change was a three-way title tie last season among Michigan State, Purdue and Iowa in the Big Ten, which does not decide its NCAA tournament representative in a postseason tourney. The limitations placed the tournament committee in an uncomfortable position. The Big Ten was considered by almost everyone to be the nation's strongest league. But, a rule was a rule. Purdue was left out. "I don't want to sound provincial, but there is no question that Purdue should have been in the tournament last year," said Duke. "It was an unusual situation." It also demonstrated the harsh realities the committee faces in maintaining the delicate balance between conference-affiliated schools and the independents. "Many conference schools argue that they play round-robin schedules," said Duke, "and they say, 'We don't have the won-lost records the independents have because we beat up on each other (in conference play).' "The independents take the view that since they aren't in a conference the committee must protect places for them in the tournament." The increase to 48 teamsand the correspondent rule that now permits selection of an unlimited number of teams from one conferencewas welcome news to the perennially powerful Atlantic Coast Conference. It, like the Big Ten, has suffered in the past because of too many good teams. It turns out that further expansion was not a mandate on which the tournament committee stood in unanimity. (continued on page 9) Opposite: Michigan State's Greg Kelser scores during the 1979 tournament, the only 40-team event ever. Photo: Malcolm Emmons 6

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