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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Going in different directions

When Fran McCaffery bolted Siena for Iowa, one of the first names thrown around as a candidate to replace McCaffery was Tim Welsh.

Well, look how that's turned out.

Siena, of course, accepted the recommendation of McCaffery and the Saints players and hired Mitch Buonaguro, who had served as McCaffery's top assistant and who, in what seems now like a previous lifetime, guided Fairfield to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in the 80s.

Welsh landed at Hofstra, where he signed a $700,000-per-year deal to replace Tom Pecora, who took a similar deal at Fordham.

Buonaguro is off to a flying start at Siena. After securing Trenity Burdine -- one of two highly regarded recruits who signed letters of intent last fall to play for McCaffery -- Buonaguro landed Rakeem Brookins, a scoring point guard who had previously committed to Tulane.

After the Saints missed out on Byron Allen to George Mason, they regrouped to pick up Brookins, who's rated the No. 204 high school senior in the country by Hoop Scooop. (Allen, who had drawn interest from several high-major programs, is rated No. 141).

As for Welsh?

Less than a day after Buonaguro added Brookins, the former Iona and Providence coach and ESPN broadcaster was arrested by police in Levvitown, N.Y., who found him asleep at the wheel at a green light and charged him with driving while intoxicated after his blood alcohol level registered at more than twice the legal limit.

Hofrsta officials promptly suspended Welsh without pay after the news broke.

Welsh isn't the only person with MAAC hoops ties to be charged with a recent DWI. Siena point guard Ronald Moore was booked for the same charge earlier this month, while it was revealed former Saint Kenny Hasbrouck has a DWI on his record from February, just before he left Albany to play for the Miami Heat.

Kevin Willard, who left Iona last month to take the job at Seton Hall, has a DWI on his record from his time as a Louisville assistant.

But Welsh's arrest is the most alarming of that group. Players -- especially those with NBA aspirations -- should know better. But coaches face a higher standard. And coaches who have just recently been hired after a two-year absence, face still a higher standard.

That Welsh is under fire more than five months before he holds his first practice is mind-boggling, especially given the circumstances at Hofstra. In the wake of eliminating its football program, the Pride is intent on reminding fans in the New York area that it's serious about its athletic program.

That's why it was important, after Pecora left to attempt to rebuild Fordham, that Hofstra made a splash with its next hire -- something many thought it had done by hiring Welsh.

Welsh is widely considered to be friendly, amiable and bright, among other attributes. He may well have a successful first season and a successful career at Hofstra. But there are several athletic directors throughout the region who are happy today he doesn't work for them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NCAA moves at a glance

The Associated Press gives a rundown of the moves enacted and recommended today by the NCAA board of directors:

— Approved expansion of the men's basketball tournament from 65 to 68 teams, effective March 2011. The board also endorsed a proposal to expand the opening-round games from one to four. The format must still be approved by the men's basketball committee this summer.

— Approved new rules mandating concussions. Schools in all three divisions must comprise a concussion policy that mandates removal of players who exhibit concussion-like symptoms and require players who are diagnosed with concussions to sit out the rest of the day. Players can only return if they have been cleared by a medical professional trained in concussion injuries. Athletes will have to sign a statement saying they will report illnesses and injuries to team doctors. The new rules take effect this fall, and schools that do not comply could face yet-to-be-determined sanctions.

— Endorsed a recommendation that will require football players to complete a minimum of nine credit hours during the fall semester to remain academically eligible for the following season. The board said studies show players who complete at least nine hours in the fall are more likely to be academically eligible in the spring. Players who fail to meet the requirement would have to sit out four games, but could reduce the penalty to two games if they complete 27 credit hours by the end of the next summer session.

— Endorsed a recommendation from the Committee on Academic Performance to eliminate waivers for penalties assessed to Football Bowl Subdivision schools that have players leave school after completing their eligibility and are not academically eligible. That's a problem for players who leave school to attend pre-NFL combine workouts. The board agreed that eliminating the waivers would be an incentive to improve retention and eligibility issues.

— Adopted a recommendation to continue studying the time demands on football student-athletes and the requirements for two-year college transfers.

— Endorsed recommendations for new Division I membership standards. If approved, new Division I schools would undergo a four-year reclassification process, becoming fully eligible in the fifth year; need to be an active member in Division II for at least five years before starting reclassification; need to meet Division I requirements upon the start of reclassification; and have a bona fide offer to join a conference before starting the reclassification process.

NCAA tournament expanding to 68 -- not 96 -- teams

In a move sure to gain almost universal approval, the NCAA board of directors essentially ratified a proposal recommended last week to expand the Big Dance not to 96 teams, as had been feared, but to 68.

As I wrote earlier this month, expanding to 96 teams could have had dire consequences down the road. With that in mind, I'm joining the halleluja chorus of media and fans celebrating today's decision.

Here's the AP story on the official move and some more details about the tournament's new TV deal with CBS and Turner:

NDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The road to the Final Four will have a new look next season.

On Thursday, the NCAA's board of directors approved expansion from 65 to 68 teams and endorsed a proposal to add three more opening-round games to the schedule. It's only the second time in a quarter-century that the NCAA has increased the number of teams competing for the men's national championship.

Now it's time to start mapping out the details, which could include putting at-large teams in the early games.

"The (men's basketball) committee will have to study any variety of options and certainly the notion of looking at options involving the last at-large teams in would be one possible option," NCAA vice president Greg Shaheen told The Associated Press. "We would expect the committee to examine all of the options."

The decision was not a surprise.

NCAA officials recommended the 68-team field last week after the public loudly complained that going to 80 or 96 teams would water down the NCAA's marquee event, and network executives insisted they did not need more tourney games to make a profit on the next television contract.

So the NCAA backed the most modest expansion, at least for now. The board gave unanimous consent to the 68-team field with a caveat — it wants the "play-in" games to have more significance.

"Expanding to 68 teams gave us an opportunity to involve more teams in the championship, and in doing that, we were able to enhance the experience of the opening-round game," Clemson president James Barker, the committee chairman, said in a statement.

It's the first time since 2001, when the NCAA added one team to the 64-team team field that it has expanded. The NCAA went from 48 to 64 teams in 1985.

More teams won't be the only change fans see next March.

Thanks to the new 14-year, $10.8 billion television package with CBS and Turner Broadcasting, also announced last week, fans can choose which games they want to watch. It will be the first time every tourney game will be televised live nationally. One game will be carried by CBS, with others carried on TNT, TBS and truTV.

It's a smaller overhaul than fans expected after NCAA officials spoke extensively about the format for a 96-team field four weeks ago, but it hasn't stopped the talk about additional expansion.

The new TV deal gives the NCAA sole authority to expand again, a possibility some observers believe will happen in the near future. Don't bet on it.

"Field size of any event is something people like to debate, but it's not something the committee is interested in taking on in the foreseeable future," Shaheen said.

Tourney expansion was only part of the board's busy schedule Thursday.

It also endorsed a recommendation that would require football players to complete nine credit hours during the fall semester to be eligible for the following season. And the Committee on Academic Performance wants to eliminate waivers for Football Bowl Subdivision teams that lose players who are academically ineligible after completing their eligibility. The board believes the elimination of those waivers will force schools to place greater emphasis on retaining athletes.

Both proposals are expected to be added to the 2010-11 legislative calendar.

Other discussion topics on the board's agenda included the use of athletes' names, images and likenesses in commercial products; new rules for handling athlete concussions; and tougher academic standards for junior college transfers. The NCAA did not immediately give any indication of what the board did on those issues.

As usual, though, the men's basketball tourney stole the show.

"The basketball committee very intensely got into determining the tournament structure in the last two years, so it's been an extensive journey," Shaheen said. "But we also recognize it's just one of the 88 championships, so we've still got a lot of work to do. We still have a significant amount of (television) rights to work on."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Paul Cormier in the Ivy League; Tim O'Toole next?

It's been quite a month for former Fairfield head coaches.

After a decades-long stretch during which no former Stags coach moved on to another Division I head job, two of them -- Mitch Buonaguro at Siena and Paul Cormier at Dartmouth -- were hired to take over programs.

Buonaguro taking the helm at Siena -- a team that should contend, along with Fairfield and a few other teams, for the MAAC title -- will likely end up being the most talked-out hire in Stag Country.

But also of interest is the coaching picture in the Ivy League, which saw half of its coaches leave or get fired either during or after the 2009-10 season. First came news that Cormier was heading back to Dartmouth, where he coached the Big Green from 1984-91.

And according to a source familiar with the hiring process at Columbia, former Fairfield coach Tim O'Toole interviewed for the Lions' vacancy yesterday, meaning he's on a short list of candidates to replace Joe Jones, who left to join Steve Donahue's staff at Boston College.

Other candidates reportedly include NJIT coach (and former Columbia assistant) Jim Engles, Saint Mary's top assistant Kyle Smith and New Orleans coach Joe Pasternack.

O'Toole, whose contract wasn't renewed at Fairfield following the 2005-06 season, could be a good fit in the Ivy League. He's spent the last four years teaching graduate-level business classes at Fordham -- a rarity, to be sure, among coaches -- and is close friends with Harvard coach Tommy Amaker.

O'Toole, a color analyst on ESPNU's Ivy broadcasts for the past two seasons, comes highly recommended by former boss Mike Krzyzewski, who, though the Duke admissions office is surely more helpful than its counterpart at Columbia, knows a thing or two about recruiting players with strong academic backgrounds.

Engles, also a former top assistant at Rider, is 11-51 in two seasons at NJIT. He left Rider for Columbia in 2003, paving the way for Don Harnum to hire Tommy Dempsey as his new deputy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NFL Draft chat, part 2

Live chat: NFL Draft

Live draft chat tonight

Yes, this is a basketball blog. Yes, the NFL draft has nothing to do with basketball. But so what?

I'll be hosting The Trentonian's live NFL draft chat right here, tonight at 6:50. The draft starts at 7, when the Rams are expected to pick Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford with the No. 1 pick.

Pull up a chair and a cold beverage and stop by. You're even welcome to throw in some MAAC/college hoops chatter if you see fit to do so.

All-Met teams

Meant to post this earlier, then that all-too-pesky print edition got in the way:

For the third straight year, a Thompson was named first-team all-Met. For the second straight year, that Thompson was Ryan, who joined Player of the Year Charles Jenkins of Hofstra; Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell; LIU's Jaytornah Wisseh and Stony Brook's Muhammed El-Amin on the first team.

Stony Brook's Steve Pikiell was named Coach of the Year, while Fordham's Chris Gaston beat out Fairfield's Derek Needham for Rookie of the Year.

Needham, though, was named to the third team along with Wesley Jenkins and Rico Pickett. Anthony Johsnon, a first-team all-MAAC pick, was named to the second team.

The full list of honorees is below:

FIRST TEAM: Charles Jenkins, Hofstra, 6-3, jr, G, Queens, N.Y.; Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, 6-5, jr, G, Harlem, N.Y.; D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s, 6-5, jr, G-F, Pittsburgh; Ryan Thompson, Rider, 6-6, sr, G, Mt. Laurel, N.J.; Jaytornah Wisseh, LIU, 6-1, sr, G, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Muhammad El-Amin, Stony Brook, 6-5, sr, G, Lansing, Mich.


SECOND TEAM: Hamady Ndiaye, Rutgers, 7-0, sr, C, Dakar, Senegal; Mike Rosario, Rutgers, 6-3, so, G, Jersey City, N.J.; Anthony Johnson, Fairfield, 6-8, sr, F, Lake Wales, Fla.; Herb Pope, Seton Hall, 6-8, so, F, Aliquippa, Pa.; Scott Machado, Iona, 6-1, so, G, Queens, N.Y.; Chris Gaston, Fordham, 6-7, fr, F, Palisades Park, N.J.


THIRD TEAM: Rico Pickett, Manhattan, 6-4, jr, G, Decatur, Ala.; Derek Needham, Fairfield, 5-11, fr, G, Dolton, Ill.; Sean Baptiste, FDU, 6-3, sr, G, No. Brunswick, N.J.; Noruwa Agho, Columbia, 6-3, so, G, New City, N.Y.; Wesley Jenkins, St. Peter’s, 6-2, jr, G, Newark, N.J.; Travis Taylor, Monmouth, 6-8, so, F, Union, N.J.


Haggerty Award player of the year: Charles Jenkins, Hofstra.

Rookie of the year: Chris Gaston, Fordham.

Coach of the year: Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Source: DeShawn Mitchell leaving Rider

DeShawn Mitchell will leave the Rider basketball team before playing a game, a source close to the program told The Trentonian Wednesday.

Mitchell, a transfer from UNLV, had clashed repeatedly with the coaching staff, according to the source, who wasn't authorized to speak for the team because an official move hasn't been made. Mitchell will remain at Rider at least for the remainder of the semester. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 1.6 points per game as a freshman at UNVL before transferring.

Mitchell, a former high school standout at Monmouth and Oak Hill academies, will be the third Rider player this spring to leave the program with eligibility remaining. Sophomore forward Jermaine Jackson and freshman guard Carl Johnson both transferred, opening up scholarships that Rider will fill with incoming freshman Tommy Pereira and Virginia transfer Jeff Jones.

The Broncs, coming off a 17-16 season in which they fell short of lofty expectations, have a highly regarded recruiting class coming in. Rider has signed letters of intent from 6-7 power forward Danny Stewart and 6-4 combo guard Anthony Myles, and a verbal commitment from Pereira, a 6-2 shooting guard from Nottingham, England.

Mitchell's departure gives coach Tommy Dempsey one additional scholarship, which the team may fill with another transfer.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More on Rider's roster

A few thoughts on the 2010-11 Rider roster, which was finalized today with a verbal commitment from shooting guard Tommy Pereira:

* Three starting spots -- those held by Justin Robinson, Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold -- are virtually set in stone. The other two are up for grabs, but if I had to place a bet right now, my money would be on Anthony Myles and Danny Stewart filling the other two spots. It's also possible that Brandon Penn (or maybe Dera Nd-Ezuma if he shows more improvement over the summer than is anticipated) could land in the starting frontcourt, and/or that Jhamar Youngblood could start alongside Robinson in the backcourt.

* Robinson will start at the point and play a whole lot of minutes. He's too important to this team for that not to be the case. But Tommy Dempsey isn't sure who will spell him for the 5-10 minutes per game that the ball isn't in his hands. Look for either Myles, Pereira or Youngblood to run the point when Robinson is either on the bench or playing off the ball.

* For the first time since I started covering Rider in 2007-08, I like the Broncs' bench, which is likely to include Youngblood, Penn, Pereira, an improved Nd-Ezuma, and Pat Mansell, who when on can be an effective zone-buster.

* As I've written a few times this month, if I had to fill out a ballot right now, I'd pick Rider fifth in the MAAC, behind Fairfield, Siena, Iona and Saint Peter's. But despite Ryan Thompson's absence, this is a pretty talented team for one that will be picked middle of the pack. Rider's disappointing 2009-10 season aside, plenty of mid-major coaches would love to have a core of Robinson, Gadson and Ringgold and recruits as highly regarded as Myles and Stewart.

Rider roster set; Tommy Pereira commits

With a verbal commitment from 6-foot-2 shooting guard Tommy Pereira, Rider's 2010-11 roster is in place.

Pereira, a 3-point specialist from Nottingham England, joins Danny Stewart, Anthony Myles and Virginia transfer Jeff Jones on the school's list of off-season additions.

Pereira, like rising senior Justin Robinson, is a product of the under-18 British national team. Outside shooting was a major weakness in 2009-10, and the Broncs' coaches view Pereira as a zone buster who can also help spell Robinson at point guard when needed.

Stewart, a 6-7 forward from Neumann Goretti High School in Philadelphia, signed a letter of intent last fall to play at Rider. Myles, a 6-4 guard from Dover, Del., has signed his letter, but the school has yet to receive it, meaning no formal announcement will come until early next week.

Jones, a 6-4 guard from Chester, Pa., will sit out next season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules. The Broncs' 2010-11 roster will also include DeShawn Mitchell, a guard who sat out last season after transferring from UNLV.

Monday, April 12, 2010

UVA's Jeff Jones transferring to Rider

Jeff Jones, a 6-foot-4 junior guard at the University of Virginia, is transferring to Rider, a source told The Trentonian.

Jones, from Chester, Pa., averaged 7.3 points in 18.3 minutes last year for the Cavaliers. He'll sit out the 2010-11 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules and be eligible in 2011-12.

The move leaves Rider with one available scholarship, which the Broncs would like to fill before the start of the spring signing period.

Rider is likely to add Tom Pereira, a 6-2 shooting guard from Nottingham, England. The Broncs have a signed letter of intent from 6-7 forward Danny Stewart and a verbal commitment from 6-4 guard Anthony Myles.

The 2010-11 roster will also include DeShawn Mitchell, who sat out last year after transferring from UNLV.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ryan Feldman on Ryan Thompson

Trentonian correspondent Ryan Feldman, who doubles as editor of the quickly growing Hoops Report, is at the Portsmouth Invitational. Here's his take on the performance turned in last night by Ryan Thompson, who scored a game-high 37 points.


PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Ryan Thompson picked a great day to have one of the best games of his career.

The Rider senior is playing this week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, featuring 64 of the top senior college basketball players in the country. The players are playing in front of dozens of NBA scouts, trying to impress them enough to secure a spot in the upcoming draft.
In Thompson’s first game at Portsmouth on Wednesday, a game in which his team won 114-82, he scored a game-high 37 points on 14-of-20 shooting from the field, 4-for-5 from 3-point range, and 5-for-5 at the free throw line. He also added three rebounds, four assists, four steals, a block and no turnovers.

Not only did Thompson score a lot of points, but it was obvious to everyone in the gym that he was the best player on the court.

He consistently made solid decisions with the ball and took control when his team needed him. He stood out like a gem in a game that included North Carolina’s Marcus Ginyard, Houston’s Aubrey Coleman, Arizona’s Nic Wise, Rutgers’ Hamady Ndiaye, Arkansas’s Michael Washington, Texas A&M’s Bryan Davis, Oklahoma’s Tony Crocker and Wake Forest’s Chas McFarland.

“I didn’t think I was gonna do this well,” Thompson said. “I just wanted to play solid. I wanted to improve my stock, which is probably pretty low right now. I just wanted to have fun and show guys what I can do, and it ended up positive.”

Rider fans saw Thompson drive to the basket and score in transition many times throughout the years, but the most impressive part of Thompson’s performance on Wednesday was how pure his jump shot was.

Almost every single time he had an inch of space, his jumper went through the net from anywhere on the court. And even a few times when he took some low percentage shots, like a fade-away jumper with one foot in the air and a hand in his face in the second half, it still went in. And it’s not like Thompson was only hot for parts of the game. He was shooting as well in the opening minutes as he was in the final minutes.

Before the season, Thompson had a legitimate shot of getting his name called in the NBA Draft if he could prove to be an effective point guard. But with an underwhelming season, Thompson now knows he has to shine in Portsmouth and in NBA team workouts to slide up to the second round of the NBA Draft.

“I hope so,” Thompson said about the notion that his 37-point effort helped his draft stock. “You don’t know what people are looking for, what certain teams are looking for, but if I keep playing solid basketball and keep doing the things I know how to do, you never know what can happen.”

Thompson’s scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage all went down from his junior year to his senior year. Most significantly, he shot 42 percent from the field and 32 percent on 3-pointers as a senior after shooting better than 50 percent from the field and 42 percent on 3-pointers in each of his previous two seasons.

But Thompson proved on Wednesday to be a much improved outside shooter and overall scorer. He had only scored more than 37 points once in his college basketball career — he scored 38 in an overtime loss at Hofstra this season — and had never made 14 field goal attempts in a game (his career high was 11).

While one game doesn’t mean everything, it certainly helps to have such a dominant performance with scouts from every NBA team watching. If they weren’t considering Thompson before Portsmouth, he’s at least now on the minds of every NBA scout. If he can have similar success in his upcoming games tonight and tomorrow night, Thompson could have a legitimate shot at being drafted.

“You can’t just have one good game and all of a sudden let loose and let your guard down the next game,” said Thompson. “I just gotta keep being aggressive, keep being a good teammate, and show them what I can do.”

Fred Hill out at Rutgers

Fred Hill is out as Rutgers men's basketball coach.

According to a report at MyCentralJersey.com, the coach reached a financial settlement with school officials today and will inform his team in a 3 p.m. meeting that he's no longer the coach.

The school was reportedly looking to fire Hill with cause after an outburst last week at a Rutgers-Pitt baseball game. Athletic director Tim Pernetti announced last month that Hill would be back next year despite having completed his fourth straight losing season.

But the outburst and what has been described as subsequent insubordination prompted Pernetti to consider firing Hill with cause, which would have allowed the school to avoid paying Hill the $1.8 million remaining on his contract.

According to the MyCentralJersey report, a formal announcement is expected as soon as this afternoon from Pernetti. The report lists former Boston College and Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien, former St. John's coach and current ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, former Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio, Rhode Island coach Jim Baron and Temple coach Fran Dunphy as candidates to replace Hill.

Rutgers will join Seton Hall, St. John's and DePaul among Big East schools with coaching changes.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why Fairfield fans can breathe a sigh of relief

Fairfield will enter next season with expectations the highest in more than a decade.

That remains true today, since with Boston College's decision to hire Cornell's Steve Donahue, Ed Cooley is almost certain to return for a fifth season.

Cooley had been one of three reported finalists for the job -- vacated when Al Skinner was fired last week -- along with Donahue and Northeastern coach Bill Coen, who, along with Cooley, was a long-time assistant under Skinner.

If Fairfield lives up to expectations next year -- especially if the Stags make it to the NCAA tournament -- the odds Cooley will be back in 2011-12 are slim.

But great as the BC job would have been for Cooley, his departure would have come at the least opportune time for Fairfield.

The Stags' program is the healthiest its been since the mid-90s, when it won MAAC regular season and tournament titles in back-to-back years. That's almost entirely because of Cooley, and even if Gene Doris hit it out of the park again on Cooley's replacement, there's no guarantee the new coach would have been able to pick up where Cooley left off.

Worst of all, though, would have been the impact on Fairfield's roster. Had Cooley left it's entirely possible Derek Needham would have left as well, depriving the Stags of arguably the best player in the MAAC at a time when his presence makes Fairfield the team to beat in the league.

Boston College wanted someone who could energize a dormant fan base and quickly restore a program that has slipped in the ACC pecking order over the past several years. Cooley fits that description almost perfectly. From that standpoint, Fairfield fans may actually be lucky that Colin Nickerson's 15-footer at the buzzer didn't fall in the MAAC title game.

Donahue's credentials -- taking a bottom-tier Ivy League program and eventually leading it to the Sweet 16 -- are hard to match, but if Cooley had added an NCAA tournament experience to his resume, he may have landed the BC job or been in the mix for several other jobs at power conferences.

There's enough balance in the top half of the MAAC to make the races for the MAAC's one or two NCAA tournament spots (assuming the tournament expands to 96 teams) extremely competitive.

Fairfield, though, has the best shot of any school. If the Stags make it back to the Big Dance, their program will be in infinitely better shape than it was on April 11, 2006, when they introduced Cooley as their new coach.

And if that's the case, Cooley can leave for greener pastures knowing he left a significant mark on the program.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why NCAA tournament expansion would be a bad business move

Many have argued against NCAA tournament expansion because it’s a shameless money grab. That argument is flimsy. This move is more blatantly about money than most, but everything in sports is a money grab, and for the most part, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Expansion isn’t wrong because it’s greedy. It’s wrong because it’s an awful long-term business decision — one that, over the course of time, will land the NCAA and its member institutions less money instead of more.

The notion that expansion would hurt the game is common almost to the point of becoming accepted doctrine. The NCAA, though, will address the issue at its April 29 board meeting anyway, because adding 16 more games would draw a more lucrative TV deal. (The NCAA can opt out of the final three years of its $6 billion deal with CBS at the end of this year).

The argument that an expanded tournament would be severely watered down sounds good but also isn’t true. With 347 Division 1 teams, adding another 32 will actually do very little — if anything — to dilute the field. And the dilution argument ignores the reality that the current field doesn’t contain the best 65 teams in the country anyway because of all the automatic bids to mid- and low-majors.

But the tournament will lose a lot of its appeal if it gives 32 teams a bye while the other 64 have to play on the first day. One of the charming things about the tournament as its presently constituted is that Kansas needs to play the same number of games to win the tournament as Robert Morris — that on the first day, upsets like Ohio over Georgetown are possible. This is corny but entirely true: Those upsets give the tournament charm, and that charm is the reason casual sports fans — or better yet, people not even interested in sports — become college basketball fans in March.

Expanding the tournament has the potential to turn away those fans in droves, yielding the NCAA’s TV partner — whether its CBS, ESPN or someone else — lower ratings. That could easily mean that by the time it’s time to negotiate the next tournament TV deal, the value of the deal will be less than it would have with a 65-team field.

But expansion would hurt the tournament itself significantly less than it would hurt the regular season and conference tournaments.

College basketball’s regular season is already under siege from critics for having little significance. If a team like North Carolina can have its most disappointing season in decades and STILL make the NCAA tournament, critics will rightly argue that at least as it pertains to successful teams from power conferences, what goes on between November and February will be a string of exhibition games.

It’s easy to envision a scenario in which regular-season TV ratings go down and conferences are eventually forced to settle for less lucrative contracts as a result.

Then there are conference tournaments. Those held by the power conferences already have little meaning, but those held by mid-majors have both meaning and financial value. A league like the MAAC, for instance makes a comparative killing on its tournament.

Yet under some of the proposed expansion plans, automatic NCAA bids would be awarded to both regular season and tournament champions.

While the value of mid-major regular seasons -- contrary to high-major regular seasons — would increase, such a plan would cripple conference tournaments and potentially deprive conferences of revenue. Imagine how much less meaningful last moth’s Fairfield-Siena game would have been if Siena had already clinched a tournament berth. That’s exactly how a potential MAAC title game could play out next year if the tournament is expanded.

It’s very easy, then, to envision a scenario in which high-major regular seasons and mid-major conference tournaments are so devalued that interest in the sport drops significantly over the next decade. If that happens, TV deals will be less lucrative, attendance will dip, and disinterested donors will stop forking over the loads of cash that pay coaches’ salaries.

That’s why when the NCAA board meets later this month, it should keep the tournament -- and the structure of the sport — how it is.