March Madness, April sanity, and managing expectations

The NCAA college basketball tournament is the biggest sporting event of the year, so no one can blame the NCAA for wanting to cram more teams into their biggest cash cow.  Still, analysts seemed to worry that the 96-team tournament idea that had been floating around for the last month was overkill – even if the decision seemed imminent.

Whether intentional or not, the 96-team idea made yesterday’s announcement that the tournament would add three extra teams much more palatable.

It’s a good lesson in managing expectations; without that original 96-team plan, the move to 68 might have been perceived as the first step toward an ever-expanding format and draw a healthy round of criticism itself.  The alternative to the 68-team tournament that will probably be in effect next year is now the theoretical 96-team format, rather than the 65-team format we’ve enjoyed since 2001.

(None of this, of course, is going to help me pick a bracket that stays in contention in any office pool past the second round.)

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