Missouri's Dennis Gates suggests doubling NCAA tourney field

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Missouri coach Dennis Gates not only believes the NCAA tournament should expand, he would like the 68-team format to double in size.

Speaking to reporters at the SEC Tipoff event in Alabama, Gates argued that the tournament has a history of expansion, most recently growing from 64 to 68 teams.

"It's time now to give that another look and maybe grow," Gates said. "I would like to see it doubled."

Gates said expansion would allow for more opportunities for coaches and players, and it would also help to grow the popularity of the game.

"There are some great coaches left out of the tournament and some great players we don't get to see," he said.

Georgia coach Mike White said he was "all for" expansion.

So is Tennessee coach Rick Barnes.

"I think expansion would be great," Barnes said. "I believe the way the tournament touches every state in our country, I just think you go back and look at how teams that have played in games that have made some runs, how Ole Miss in football comes back and they win the national championship in baseball, and I think that they were the last team in.

"How you [expand], I'm not sure exactly, but it's a great time of year, and it's hard to get there. You don't ever take it for granted. I can tell you that. I do think it will be expanding at some point in time."

But South Carolina coach Lamont Paris and Arkansas coach Eric Musselman don't believe expansion is necessary. Both coaches called themselves "traditionalists."

Musselman said 68 teams is the "perfect number."

"It's hard to make the NCAA tournament," he said. "There's value in the regular season. So I really like it a lot. You always want to change and evolve with the times -- but it's really working well for everyone involved."

Paris said change can be good, but he likes the tournament "where it is now."

"The question is: Does adding more teams enhance that somehow?" he asked. "It's already good as it is now. Or does it upset the apple cart?"

A week ago, ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said "it's time to look at" expansion.

He said the conference felt it "deserved" more than five teams in the tournament.

"But the numbers are the numbers," he said. "Again, my perspective and our perspective of the ACC, not interested in cutting back those [automatic qualifiers]. Those AQs matter. That's part of the broad-based opportunities we have in Division I sports is the lower resource conferences and the higher resource conferences can all gain access."