What an afternoon of games. Wow. And, for me, the big takeaway is how much this validates the idea of expanding the Tournament -- or at least mitigating the hysterics so opposed to it.
The reason this afternoon was so terrific had nothing to do with the so-called "quality" of the teams. It had to do with:
*A lower seed beating a higher seed.
*A "no-name" beating a "name."
*Your judgment jeopardized/validated.
That it was "Murray State" or "Robert Morris" or "Vanderbilt" or "Villanova" -- it doesn't matter. 99 percent of fans who engage during the NCAA Tournament -- hell, 99 percent of college hoops fans who claim to love the sport -- had never seen Murray or Bobby Mo play.
What matters is that a "15" was beating a "2." Or that a "14" beat a "3." Or that you'd never heard of Murray State but heard of Vanderbilt. Or that this team won on a dramatic last-second shot. Or that your personal picks were right/wrong/whatever.
Expanding the Tournament doesn't change any of that. In fact, it multiplies it: Instead of two days of jam-packed games, upsets, buzzer-beaters and bracket affirmation, you get four days.
Expanding the Tournament might be all about the money, but it doesn't necessarily mean the idea is a bad one, when you remove the money and focus simply on the fan experience.
This is what the critics of expansion miss almost entirely. "Murray State" is a placeholder for any no-name team that wins on a buzzer-beater. "Old Dominion" is a placeholder for any lower seed that upsets a higher seed. "BYU" is a placeholder for a "have-not" beating a big-brand "have."
And "Look at me: I'm still 4-0!" or "Wow, if I had lost Villanova, my whole bracket would have been screwed, but I love it anyway!" has nothing to do with how many teams are in the tournament or what their pre-Tournament "quality" might be.
There is nothing inherent in expanding the Tournament to 96 teams that detracts from all of these basic elements of what makes the Tournament so amazing. In fact, it might just enhance it by giving us more.
That's what everyone seemed to be crying out for today: We love this. Give us more.