NCAA announces March Madness expansion…

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05: A general view of the opening tipoff between Matt Howard #54 of the Butler Bulldogs and Brian Zoubek #55 of the Duke Blue Devils during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images);

…and it’s not as bad as we thought it was going to be.

The final four at-large teams and final four automatic qualifiers in the newly minted 68-team NCAA men’s basketball tournament field will meet for the right to enter the traditional 64-team draw, tournament selection committee chairman Dan Guerrero announced Monday.

The “First Four” will be played either the Tuesday or Wednesday after Selection Sunday. The winners of the four games will advance to what will now be called the “second round” on either Thursday or Friday.

The games will be televised on TruTv (formerly CourtTV), which is available in 93 million homes, said NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen, who manages the NCAA tournament. CBS, Turner, TBS and TruTV are in their first year of a $10.8 billion, 14-year television agreement.

There was a lot of talk about a possible expansion to 96 teams, which would just be an obvious money grab by the NCAA, but the entity showed some restraint and are only going to expand the tournament by three teams.

I don’t know what the hell TruTV is or if I even get it on DirecTV, but this is the way for a channel to put itself on the map.

But wait a second — the last few at-large teams (#10-#12) aren’t seeded as low as the last few automatic bids (#16), so how are the winners of the “First Four” going to be inserted in the rest of the tournament field?

Guerrero and Shaheen said the last four at-large teams would be put on the seed line the committee decided they earned. So, this could mean that two could be considered No. 12 seeds playing for the right to play a No. 5 and two could be No. 11s vying to play a No. 6 in the second round.

In its news release, the NCAA listed the 10th seed as a possible destination for the last at-large teams, something that has occurred in past years. It is unlikely that the committee will have one team seeded 10th, 11th or 12th to avoid having teams seeded differently playing in a First Four game.

Confused yet? Me too, but at least the NCAA has a plan. I just don’t know quite how it’s going to work. If these are #11 vs. #16 games, then potentially there would be a #16 vs. #6 matchup if the #16-seed won its “First Four” game. That is going to take some getting used to.

Hey, at least they didn’t expand it any further.

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