The 16-Team NCAA Tournament Would Have Been Weird and Empty Anyway

NCAA Tournament
NCAA Tournament / Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The NCAA considered trying to salvage March Madness with a 16-team tournament staged over a long weekend in Atlanta, the Associated Press reports. Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's vice president of men's basketball, said the idea would have seen the committee picking the participants and staging games Thursday-Saturday with the championship game taking place on Monday night.

"Far from ideal. Far from perfect,” Gavitt said. “Imperfect as it may be, that was one of the only reasonable options we thought we could at least maintain some level of our tournaments.” Gavitt said there was some hope early Thursday that a full tournament could still be played. As that faded, the idea of holding a smaller event got “mixed interest” from committee. “There was a real concern about not being inclusive enough, with only 16 teams,” Gavitt said. “But the other thing that was in play at that point in committee members’ minds, and we saw this play out at conference tournaments, once an NBA player was infected, I think it started to really hit home for the players, from what I’ve heard from coaches by text message and anecdotally.”"

As time passed, any hope of any basketball became unrealistic. The monumental decision to cancel the tournament outright is a sobering reflection of just how serious things have become and will continue to be.

It goes without saying that a 16-team tournament is far preferable to a zero-team tournament. But the committee trying to pare down the field by more than 76 percent would have been excruciatingly tough. Even if eight or nine conferences, as Gavitt said, were represented, so much of what makes the event great would have been left on the cutting-room floor.

Cinderella would never have been given the chance to try on a slipper. Those on the bubble of the top-16 would have raised holy hell when left off. And their complaints would have a ton more credibility than those teams who barely miss out on snagging an 11-seed in the 68-team dance.

Look, there's going to be a lot of lemonade being made out of lemons coming in the near future. Complaining about a concept that never came to fruition seems a bit petty. But at the same time, this truncated version would have been just as weird as no tournament at all.

The shock and disappointment of realizing sports' greatest event would not be taking place is still fresh. Hearing there were contingency plans that never came to be doesn't really help. This and the news a full bracket for something that will never happen could be coming just make us feel worse.