July 19, 2000 - by
March Isn’t Mad Enough? How About A 65-Team NCAA Field?

July 19, 2000


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The field for the NCAA men’s basketball
tournament
will
expand by one next season with an “opening-round” game the Tuesday before
the
first round begins.

The NCAA, which confirmed the 65-team field Tuesday, said the winner
of
the
game between two of the lower-ranked conferences will move into the
brackets
as
a No. 16 seed.

The tournament field is expanding because 31 conferences will receive
automatic bids next year, two more than last season. The committee always
selects at least 34 at-large teams.

The additional automatic bids will go to the year-old Mountain West
Conference and the Western Athletic Conference, which didn’t have one last
season after eight members left to form the Mountain West.

The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is recommending the
opening-round
game be played on Tuesday, March 13, at the University of Dayton Arena,
which
is a host site for first- and second-round games. Then again, that team
might
have to play somewhere else.

“They could play at Dayton,” NCAA spokesman Bill Hancock said. “They
will
be seeded into line No. 16 and if, on selection Sunday, the committee
believes
that the No. 1 seed should be assigned to Dayton to play No. 16, then that
team
could stay in Dayton.”

The NCAA’s Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet will decide
Aug. 3
whether to adopt the recommendation.

The 65-team field will be a first, but it won’t be the first time the
NCAA
has given more than 64 teams a shot at the championship. In 1991, 33
conference
champions received automatic bids and six of the teams competed in three
play-in games. Those three winners joined 61 other teams in the tournament
field.

Craig Thompson, the Mountain West commissioner, chaired the
basketball
committee.

“We want to do everything we can to ensure that the student-athletes
who
compete in the opening-round game get the full flavor of participation in
this
great championship. The University of Dayton has a strong history of
drawing
tremendous crowds to NCAA tournament competition,” Thompson said in a
statement.

The NCAA said the teams playing the Tuesday game will be determined
on
Sunday, March 11, with the remainder of the tournament field. The NCAA
will
try
to assign the Tuesday winner to a site playing host to first-round games
on
Friday, rather than Thursday. Dayton’s first-round games will be played
Friday.

“They could stay in Dayton, but they could also move, and that won’t
be
known until selection Sunday,” Hancock said.

Both opening-round participants will get a full share of revenue for
playing
in the tournament, Hancock said.

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