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Is it time to expand the NCAA Tournament?

There is a ravenous appetitive for more games that needs to be fed.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia vs UMBC Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I am like any other man. All I do is supply a demand - Al Capone.

For 30 years, I was against it. Messing with the NCAA Tournament’s formula for success was sacrilege. The current format has been successful for so long that it didn’t make sense to consider change.

Until now.

There is a ravenous appetite for more games that needs to be fed and it’s time to expand the NCAA Tournament.

By the time the tournament gets to Saturday afternoon, the TV broadcast is down to only one game at a time for the earlier games before multiple games start to overlap for the late afternoon.

There are three nights off with no games being broadcast from Monday until Thursday night following the completion of the opening two rounds.

20 and 30 years ago, that formula made sense because the major networks had their sitcoms and regular TV programming that drew in huge ratings during the mid-week.

Monday nights had The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Murphy Brown, while Tuesday night had Growing Pains and Who’s The Boss, and Wednesday night had Magnum P.I or Seinfeld.

Very few TV shows on air these days can pull in those kind of ratings like they did back in the 80’s and 90s.

According to Variety, last year’s championship game ratings were up 21 percent compared to 2016.

In final nationals from Nielsen, Monday night’s North Carolina-Gonzaga championship game averaged 23 million total viewers, up 30% from last year’s championship game. The game peaked with 26.1 million viewers from 11:15-11:30 p.m. Additionally, NCAA March Madness Live recorded 98 million live video streams during the NCAA Tournament, up 33% over last year. The National Championship game garnered 4.4 million live video streams, an all-time record for the title game.

CBS’ coverage of Monday night’s March Madness closer saw a big viewership spike in overnight ratings compared to the 2016 championship game that aired on Turner cable networks.

To translate those numbers: People can’t get enough of the NCAA Tournament.

The depth of talent in college basketball is at an all-time high. It’s not like the 80s and 90s when there was a vast disparity between the major college programs and the smaller colleges.

Basketball has become a global game and so has the recruiting grounds for college coaches. There are hundreds of players in the NCAA from Australia, Canada and Europe, which simply wasn’t the case 20 years ago.

For the first time in history, a No. 16 seed beat a No.1 seed when UMBC manhandled the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night.

That speaks to the depth of talent available throughout college basketball that would make for an interesting game to watch that could draw in viewers and of course more advertising dollars.

Think about the teams that didn’t get into the NCAA Tournament this year that should’ve had the opportunity. USC, Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee, and Oklahoma State were all teams that were more than capable of an upset or two and perhaps make a deep run into the tournament.

Syracuse barely made into in the tournament and had to play a First Four game and have now landed in the Sweet 16 after upsetting Michigan State.

According to Business Insider, in 2011 the NCAA reached a new 14-year, $10.8 billion (deal) that was worth just north of $770 million annually for the NCAA. However, at about that same time, the revenue CBS and Turner were generating from national TV ad sales went even higher, more than doubling from $598 million in 2009 to $1.24 billion just seven years later, according to Kantar Media (via Media Life Magazine).

The NCAA will be taking in $1.1 billion each year from the NCAA Tournament’s TV deal alone starting in 2025. That number doesn’t include ticket sales, concessions and merchandise sales.

In the film Concussion, Dr. Cyril Wecht says, “The NFL owns a day of the week. The same day the Church used to own. Now it’s theirs.”

The NCAA is capable of owning the entire month of March and not just the weekends. If there is a demand from the public for more games then it only makes sense to supply it.

Expand the tournament to add more teams and put games on TV everyday of the week for two weeks straight.

We need more games to watch!