The NCAA approved beverage was still flowing and the East Tennesse State Buccaneers were still celebrating their second straight Atlantic Sun championship when the NCAA’s interim president, Jim Isch, issued a statement condemning the possible expansion to 96 tournament teams and, shockingly, endorsing a retraction.
According to the statement, released only to CBS, the powerful minds at the NCAA saw the back-and-forth tussle between fifth-seeded ETSU and sixth-seeded Mercer for exactly what it was - an example how the college game can drastically differ from the NBA. And, to them, they couldn’t be more appalled.
“You know, I was sitting at home watching this game,” Irsch wrote, “and somewhere between Mercer’s bow-tied student manager stomping his feet and ETSU rushing the court in celebration, I said ‘Jim, this isn’t what college athletics is supposed to be like’. It was just too amateur.”
Under Irsch’s plan, devised during the Atlantic Sun tournament that pitted two teams with a combined 17 conference losses, the NCAA will now aim to make March Madness mirror the BCS bowl system. The top 10 teams in the country will earn a trip to the yet to be named five-game finale, with the last being a matchup between two teams determined to be the best by a group of guys who play March Madness on Xbox Live. According to Irsch, this is a fan-friendly plan that gives college basketball nuts what they want - the stars of tomorrow on their TV today.
“Every year, we sludge through this lengthy tournament full of teams that don’t have draft picks and that can‘t move jersey sales. Why? It’s just crazy. I mean, under this wacky system, East Tennessee State actually has a chance to win the national title,” Irsch said. “Are you kidding me? Those guys couldn’t cut it in the NBDL. It‘s really absurd.”
For now, though, the system remains the same, meaning East Tennessee State and coach Murray Bartow have a chance at the national title for the second straight year after winning the Atlantic Sun title. And, as they proved in Macon, anything is possible.