February 4, 2010

Ryan hopes for expanded tournament field

MADISON - Anyone paying attention to the landscape of college basketball over the past few weeks would notice the strong push for tournament expansion from several different outlets.

Instead of what has become the 65-team field sponsored mostly by CBS, there has been talk of expanding to a 96-team tournament where the top 32 squads would likely receive a bye.

Chalk Wisconsin men's basketball head coach Bo Ryan up as one who is in favor of a larger field.

"Basketball coaches are responsible for 90-some percent of the revenue, as far as all the coaches and teams, the coaches and players are responsible for 90 percent of the generating revenue," Ryan said. "Yet in our sport, we have the lowest percentage of representation in postseason play of the major sports."

While 65 teams participating in a post-season national tournament sounds like a lot of teams on the surface, one needs to realize that more than 350 teams participate in division one basketball. That means less than 20 percent of the teams in division one college basketball get to participate in an NCAA sponsored tournament.

In comparison to division one football where nearly 50 percent of the teams participate in post-season play, that basketball inequality is magnified.

"In football they get how many more practices if their team makes a bowl game and half of them make a bowl game practically," Ryan said. "So in our sport it was basically around 19 percent in the NCAA. Why would our sport have such low representation? Based on all the other reasons that you can give for being equal to sports, both men's and women's basketball should get more teams participating in post-season play where the NCAA is sponsoring it.

"Now they're going to talk about doing it."

So how big is this expansion realistically going to get, or at least have a chance to get?

"I think 96 would be as high as we can get it," Ryan said. "Remember, I wanted 20 games in the Big Ten when we were at 16 and we went to 18. I'm not going to say more than 96, but I think that would be a great number and it can be handled."

One of the main reasons the 65-team purists shy away from expanding the field is because it takes students away from the classroom for an longer period of time. But the same could be said about the amount of time playing in a bowl game takes up, granted most of that takes place between semesters.

The players involved are still required to commit a lot of time regardless and since basketball is a two-semester sport anyway, really what difference does it make? For Ryan, who sits on several coaching committees, it makes no difference.

"You look at every sport, when are we determining the football championship right now," Ryan said. "Pro's, college, hockey, NBA. If you look 10 years ago, on what date were those games being settled for the championship? So even if we had a little more time in basketball, who is going to get hurt?

"The world didn't end in baseball when they put the divisions in. Everybody said that was perfect. What was so perfect about a team being in eighth place and no chance for postseason play for attendance in baseball. There are a lot of teams in that wild card race if you look at the numbers."

Ryan claimed he's heard every reason in the book as to why the tournament shouldn't be changed ranging from the 65-team field is a perfect size to the fact that a larger tournament would mess up the 'bracketology' experts way of thinking about the bracket.

From legitimate concerns to completely erroneous claims, a topic with such brevity is bound to debated. But when you take a look at the bigger picture and with the NCAA's pursuit of equality among sports, expanding the tournament would make nothing if not sense.

"The main thing is looking at the student athletes," Ryan said. "Male and female student athletes in the sport of basketball, (will) get more time with their coaches who are teaches, where they can develop and get better.

"What's wrong with another week or to?"

So when would Ryan like to see change implemented?

"Yesterday," he said. "As soon as possible. Every time we've expanded the field, we meaning those in basketball, everything's been fine. I was amazed to listen to some of the reasons that people would say you can't expand it. There are more teams now in college basketball.

"Things don't stay the same."

In other news:

-Ryan discussed what it will take to defend DeShawn Sims Saturday afternoon when the Badgers square off with the Wolverines for the second time this season.

"Sims is going to get looks," Ryan said. "He hit some outside shots. We were trying to limit how many touches a guy gets, but he's that good because he's strong and long. He's just a good player. But they have others, too."

-In a natural progression, Ryan was then asked about Keaton Nankivil's progression as a defender.

"He's got to keep working his feet," Ryan said. "He's got to keep working his angles. Post defense is a never-ending battle. You can't take a second off. You've got to try to keep the ball out of the post. It's the same thing as guarding three-point shooters. Don't let them get comfortable.

"There are just certain givens that you want to try to work on everyday. It doesn't come easy."

The following is the audio file from Ryan's meeting with local reporters:
Ryan, 2/4/10

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