Three college basketball Hall of Famers attended a news conference at Madison Square Garden Friday afternoon at halftime of the Pitt-Delaware game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Thompson and Christian Laettner were in New York to help kick off festivities for 75 years of March Madness, which the NCAA is celebrating all season.
All three won NCAA championships in their time at UCLA, North Carolina State and Duke.
One of the questions at the news conference was whether they liked the fact that 68 teams are now competing in the NCAA tournament and whether they feel like it’s too much. Thompson, whose N.C. State team beat Pitt in the 1974 Elite Eight before going on to win the title, gave a little history lesson that I thought was interesting. Here is what he said:
Thompson: “Well, when I played there were only 25 teams that went so it was very difficult. One of the reasons they changed the rules is we played in one of the greatest games ever. We played University of Maryland in the finals of the ACC Tournament. Only one team could represent the conference, and we were number one and they were number four. We beat them in overtime. I think the following year they went to 32 teams. I thought that was good, and then they moved on to 64 and then 65.
So I think it's good. I don't think 90‑something teams is really good, but I think it's good where it is, 65 teams, because there are so many great teams in college basketball now. There is a lot of parity.”
Laettner said he wouldn’t mind seeing the tournament expanded more.
Laettner: “I don't mind. I think it's just because it is so hot, and so big, and blowing up and people love it. Those three weekends of basketball right now, it seems like people want more and more and more of it. So go ahead and give it to them. If there are a hundred teams and they have to extend it to five weekends, I don't think it dilutes it any bit. I mean, I'm never watching TV, but I tell you, those three weekends I am glued to the set because it's so exciting, especially the first weekend when you go from 68 down to‑‑ or 64 down to 32. It's just so much fun that first weekend. One loss and you're out. That's what everyone loves about it. It's that a Goliath can be beaten by one team that plays out of their minds. I think that's what people love about the NCAA Tournament. It's one and done.
I don't mind if it goes up to a hundred. It's going to make more money for the NCAA, and have people love basketball more.”
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