Martelli favors limited expansion of NCAA tourney

Posted: February 10, 2010

One of the livelier debates in the college basketball world is whether the NCAA tourney should expand to 96 teams.

St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, who is on the National Association of Basketball Coaches board of directors, is not a proponent of the idea. He called the current 65-team format "near perfection."

Instead of expanding to 96, which he believes might cheapen the tourney and create too many logistical nightmares, Martelli is in favor of having what would amount to four play-in games with the four winners being placed in each of the four regions. Currently, the tourney has one play-in game, which is held on the Tuesday before the tourney's first round begins on Thursday.

"I don't believe in 96 teams," Martelli said. "To me it seems obvious they could go to 68 and have four opening-round games as opposed to what is now being called a play-in game. They could have four games and send a team to each region. The thing that would do is, it would enhance four more groups of players by giving them NCAA experience, because they'll not only be in the tournament but they'll win a game in the tournament, and I don't think there's anything wrong with enhancing the experience.

"I can't imagine that would take more time, or be a logistical nightmare that 96 teams might be. To me, with 96 teams it becomes something more than March Madness. I think you have near perfection in the NCAA tournament as it is, and to me it would move up a notch if we could have four opening-round games."

Team guy. St. Joe's senior Garrett Williamson is far from a pure point guard, yet, entering last night, in conference games he led the Atlantic Ten with an average of 4.8 assists a game.

The 6-5 swingman is far from the best ball handler in the league, yet he's averaging only 2.1 turnovers a game. And he's far from the quickest player in the league, yet he's tied for fourth with 1.9 steals a game. At one time or another, the former Lower Merion High standout has reached double figures in scoring, rebounding and assists. He's also a premier defensive player.

The point is there are few players, if any, who wring more out of their ability than Williamson, a reason why he's team captain.

Junior Idris Hilliard said Williamson's effort and determination inspire him and the other underclassmen to give all they have, regardless of how difficult the season has been for the Hawks.

"Nobody wants to look back and say their last year was pretty much a failure, so I'm doing everything I cannot to let that happen," said Hilliard, who likely will move into Williamson's role as captain next season.

Bumpy ride. Carl Jones, St. Joe's slightly built freshman guard, began the season by scoring 47 points in his first three games. In his fourth game, against nationally ranked Purdue, the Boilermakers banged around the 5-11, 153-pound Jones. Martelli believes Jones has struggled to adjust to the more physical play of the college game.

Since the third game, Jones has had seven games in which he scored in double figures.

"He's got a knack for scoring, but he can't keep falling down," Martelli said.


Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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