INDIANAPOLIS — — It has been a topic of discussion all season, but now a move to expand the NCAA tournament to 96 teams seems imminent.
While NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen said Thursday that nothing has been decided, he described in detail how the tournament would operate under the potential expansion from the current 65-team field.
The organization also has considered leaving the tournament at its current size, expanding to 68 teams and to 80 teams, but it has deemed the larger model the best fit.
In it, the first 32 teams would receive a bye for the first round. The tournament would be conducted in the same current three-week schedule.
Questions were raised in Shaheen's meeting with the media about the amount of class time athletes would miss and whether the field would be watered down with the addition of teams.
The first-round games for the 64 non-bye teams would take place Thursday and Friday with winners advancing to the second round Saturday and Sunday. Those winners would play in the third round Tuesday and Wednesday. Teams advancing to the Tuesday-Wednesday games would miss nearly a week of school instead of a few days.
Concerns also were raised about how competitive the field would be and how it would affect regular-season schedules and conference tournaments.
In the current field, "the champion typically does not come from a certain portion of the field," Shaheen said.
"However, that opportunity exists. The argument that was given [during expansion in 1984] was, 'Why have a 12 or 13 seed because they will not have a chance to win the national championship?' "
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said if the tournament expands he would like to see the conferences' regular-season and tournament champions each receive automatic bids. Currently, excepting the Ivy League, only tournament champions become automatic qualifiers.
"There would still be bubble teams and all that," Krzyzewski said, "but we would reward those teams accordingly."
Whether the change takes place could depend on whether the NCAA opts out of its current $6 billion television deal with CBS that runs through 2013 at the end of the summer in the pursuit of a bigger payoff with another long-term deal.
The expansion proposal only applies to the men's tournament; a separate committee is surveying the women's field.