OPINION | WALLY HALL: March Madness expansion talks underway


Conversations have already begun about expanding the men's NCAA Basketball Tournament and somehow the magic number seems to be 76.

This is not about Cinderellas or TV ratings, but about getting more teams in from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and, of course, the SEC.

North Carolina State will be their poster child as the No. 11 seeded team will now face No. 1 seed Purdue in the semifinals of the Final Four this Saturday.

It will be claimed the Wolfpack are the perfect example of why the Power 5 conferences need more berths.

The truth is the Wolfpack may be part of the historically great basketball league, the ACC, but they personify what a Cinderella is about in March Madness.

On the morning of March 10, N.C. State was 17-14 overall and had lost 10 of its last 14 games. Its future was hoping and praying for a NIT bid.

That night as the No. 10 seed in the ACC Tournament, the Wolfpack beat No. 15 seed Louisville to get into the main body of the tournament.

On successive nights they beat No. 7 Syracuse, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Virginia and No. 1 North Carolina.

Maybe being seeded a double-digit number just fits them, but that was five games in five days. They were only the second team in NCAA history to do that with UConn being the first in 2011.

They are the first double-digit seeded team to win the ACC Tournament since it began 70 years ago.

It is State's first Final Four appearance since it upset heavily favored and No. 1 seeded Houston for the championship in 1983. The Cougars did a lot of things wrong that night, including installing a new offense that stalled their run-and-gun style.

In their opening game of this NCAA Tournament, the Pack beat No. 6 seed Texas Tech 80-67 and then beat No. 14 Oakland 79-73 in overtime to make the Sweet 16.

Oakland is one of the many reasons the Big Dance is more fun. It knocked off No. 3 Kentucky in its opening game. More evidence in favor of why more mid-majors should be invited was seen in No. 4 Auburn's loss to No. 13 Yale, No. 12 Grand Canyon's win over No. 5 St. Mary's, No. 12 James Madison's win over No. 5 Wisconsin and to be fair, No. 13 Samford was cheated out of a shot at besting No. 4 Kansas.

All those wins by double-digit seeded teams were against teams in the Power 5.

This Final Four will feature two No. 1 seeds, a No. 4 seed and a No. 11 seed.

For all the criticism the NCAA gets for ignoring NIL and the transfer portal, it can throw a basketball tournament. This one, as well as the women's, has been great.

The only change that should be made is the regular-season champion should get the automatic bid. The body of the work is ignored for one week of conference tournaments.

Adding more teams is a good idea, sort of like have a 12-team playoff in college football being good but not as great as a 16-team playoff would be, meaning there would be no first-round byes thus leveling the playing field.

The idea here is 32 regular-season champions are in the NCAA Tournament, then every team who wins their tournament is in too.

The total number of automatics bids could be different every year, but that's not a big deal. Everyone owns a computer.

Expand the field to 96 teams and eliminate the NIT. Yes, its is a historical tournament but basically you are playing to be the 69th best team in the country.

It would add one four-day weekend and could include as many as 12-16 more dark horses and interest would be even greater.

For now, Cinderella is dancing in the Final Four and North Carolina State should wear silver sneakers Saturday.


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