- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 17, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Putting three more teams in the NCAA tournament won’t make the selections any easier for Gene Smith or his selection committee members.

In fact, things could get more complicated.

Smith still expects to hear complaints from the bubble teams that are left out of the new 68-team field this March.

“I still believe there’s going to be that 38th and 39th team that feel they should have been the 36th or 37th (at-large) team,” the selection committee chairman said Wednesday on a conference call. “I do believe, though, in the room we’ll kind of have one of those moments of, ‘OK, here we are with trying to solidify who 35, 36 and 37 is.’ But it won’t change our process.

“I think it will be more of a psychological or emotional experience in the first year of going to 68.”

The NCAA announced in April that it would expand the field to 68 teams rather than going to 96, which many considered inevitable because the governing body was negotiating a new television deal.

When CBS and Turner Sports, which won the rights to televise college basketball’s marquee event, said they didn’t necessarily need that many additional games to turn a profit, the NCAA opted for a smaller expansion.

Clearly, this March will look quite different to viewers.

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.

And there will be the inaugural “First Four” round of games. Previously, there had been one such game, which fans dubbed the play-in game because the winner advanced to face one of the four No. 1 seeds.

This time, however, two games will be played between the four lowest seeds to make the field, while the other two will feature the last four at-large qualifiers.

Some are hoping it will open the door to giving more bids to the so-called mid-major programs and conferences, though Smith cautioned the committee will follow the same selection and bracketing rules and procedures it has in the past.

“I don’t know if it will make it easier,” Smith said. “It’s really hard to speculate what that moment will bring for us. We’ll move through our process. Now, as opposed to stopping, we’ll go to 37 at-large.”

Will the extra spots help teams like Butler and Northern Iowa?

Maybe.

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