The San Diego State Aztecs have reached the final of the 2023 NCAA Tournament Championship for men’s basketball. Like Butler and Gonzaga before, this is a unique opportunity for March Madness to demonstrate its awesomeness, even though both Butler and Gonzaga lost twice each in the title game previously. However, there is a unique twist to consider here, which might let the NCAA get away with a fast one.
With Pac-12 realignment issues at hand, there have been a lot of whispers about SDSU moving up to the big leagues and taking over the Southern California TV market. The school has a lot of alumni, and the TV revenue from those grads has the potential to bolster the Pac-12 in TV contract talks. On paper, cheatin’ Connecticut has a five-point edge on San Diego State in the title game, but that’s not that much, really, all things considered. Could the NCAA really manipulate this?
Nothing could be a better coup for the Pac-12—and the NCAA, by extension, since it is in college sports best interests to keep the Conference of (real NCAA) Champions alive and kicking—than to see the Aztecs win on Monday night and then announce on Tuesday that the school is joining the Pac-12 Conference. The last time a “small school” from a non-power conference won the men’s basketball title? You have to go back to 1977 when Marquette won it all.
Now, the world was different then; this was pre-1979 Magic v. Bird, for example, and the tournament then only included 32 schools total. Heck, even UNC-Charlotte made the Final Four that year. So, yes, it was a different era in sport, overall. Thus, basically, San Diego State winning the NCAA Tournament would be a paradigm shift in college sports—and with the College Football Playoff headed toward legitimate expansion, too, we could be looking at something amazing.
However, it would take a lot for the powers that be to “let” SDSU beat UConn. It would mean the short-term loss of control, in exchange for the long-term benefits. And if college sports felt that way, truly, a lot of change would have happened a long time ago.