In advance of the 2017-18 season, the Big 4 basketball coaches joined The Buffalo News for a conference call on a variety of subjects. Here, UB coach Nate Oats, Canisius coach Reggie Witherspoon, Niagara coach Chris Casey and St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt share thoughts on the size of the NCAA Tournament field:
Q: A one-liner from everybody. Is 68 the right number (of teams) for the (NCAA) Tournament?
Casey: Yes because of what the NIT takes in, too.
Witherspoon: You heard a "no" from me because the NIT went from 40 to 32. There are so many more Division I schools now than there used to be, and the list keeps growing and growing and growing. I think March Madness is great. It's so great that people – you could have a really good year and get overlooked. The last couple years, St. Bonaventure has had a great, great, great, GREAT year. I love college football, but you can go .500 and get in a bowl game. And they had a great year, and if they win the bowl game, they might get a parade.
Schmidt: They need more teams. The way it's going now with all these power conferences, they going to go to 20 games in the conference. We still need to make it a tournament. You can't have all the high majors take most of the spots because you're going to lose out on the underdog and lose what March Madness is all about, or was all about. I don't know what the right number is, but it needs to be more than 68.
Oats: You know what, I kind of agree. I don't know what the right number is, but I will say this: When they reduced the NIT, and the women's NIT is double what the men's is, so if they don't put more in the NCAA Tournament – and the NCAA runs the NIT now – they need to put the men's NIT up where the women's NIT number is, at least. Some places won't go to the CIT or the CBI because it's a lower-level tournament, which I understand. But your women are never going to turn down an NIT bid. Well, the men's NIT doesn't equate to the women's.
If they don't decide to put more teams in, which I do think they should because these bids are going to all these high-major teams, it would be nice, like Mark said. The reason so many people watch March Madness is because you get to see a Hampton upset an Iowa State, a 15 over a 2, or you get to see all those upsets all the time. It barely happens anymore. I shouldn't say they barely do, but you have high-majors getting 10, 11, 12 seeds now because there's so many high majors in there. St. Bonaventure got screwed. They should have been in the tournament, 100 percent, so somehow they have to figure out ways to get teams like that into the tournament. I definitely think they need to add some teams to the NIT Tournament, for sure.