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March Isn’t Mad Enough? How About A 65-Team NCAA Field?

July 19, 2000

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The field for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament will expand by one next season with an “opening-round” game the Tuesday before the first round begins.

The NCAA, which confirmed the 65-team field Tuesday, said the winner of the game between two of the lower-ranked conferences will move into the brackets as a No. 16 seed.

The tournament field is expanding because 31 conferences will receive automatic bids next year, two more than last season. The committee always selects at least 34 at-large teams.

The additional automatic bids will go to the year-old Mountain West Conference and the Western Athletic Conference, which didn’t have one last season after eight members left to form the Mountain West.

The Division I Men’s Basketball Committee is recommending the opening-round game be played on Tuesday, March 13, at the University of Dayton Arena, which is a host site for first- and second-round games. Then again, that team might have to play somewhere else.

“They could play at Dayton,” NCAA spokesman Bill Hancock said. “They will be seeded into line No. 16 and if, on selection Sunday, the committee believes that the No. 1 seed should be assigned to Dayton to play No. 16, then that team could stay in Dayton.”

The NCAA’s Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet will decide Aug. 3 whether to adopt the recommendation.

The 65-team field will be a first, but it won’t be the first time the NCAA has given more than 64 teams a shot at the championship. In 1991, 33 conference champions received automatic bids and six of the teams competed in three play-in games. Those three winners joined 61 other teams in the tournament field.

Craig Thompson, the Mountain West commissioner, chaired the basketball committee.

“We want to do everything we can to ensure that the student-athletes who compete in the opening-round game get the full flavor of participation in this great championship. The University of Dayton has a strong history of drawing tremendous crowds to NCAA tournament competition,” Thompson said in a statement.

The NCAA said the teams playing the Tuesday game will be determined on Sunday, March 11, with the remainder of the tournament field. The NCAA will try to assign the Tuesday winner to a site playing host to first-round games on Friday, rather than Thursday. Dayton’s first-round games will be played Friday.

“They could stay in Dayton, but they could also move, and that won’t be known until selection Sunday,” Hancock said.

Both opening-round participants will get a full share of revenue for playing in the tournament, Hancock said.