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Jay Bilas’ Plan for No Auto-Bids Would Ruin the Tourney

Twitter has been a huge part of how we cover college sports here at The Fizz, and one of the best analysts in the game just joined the Twittisphere last month. This tweet caught my eye:

“If we had the best 64 teams, instead of automatic qualifiers, we would have even more quality mid-majors in the field. Better Tourney, too.”

Bilas is the one of the best in the business. He gets it. When talking about the the Syracuse defense a few weeks ago on College Gameday he dropped the brilliant quote “it’s not the defense, it’s who’s playing it and how they’re playing it.” Simple, yet brilliant.

On the aforementioned tweet, though, he’s off base. The beauty of March is the little guy fighting tooth and nail against the giants of college basketball. There is no doubt at the end of the tournament we want to see to Goliaths go after it, but for the first few rounds, don’t we want to see Bucknell over Kansas or little Davidson make a magical run?

Under Bilas’ plan there would never be these types of stories. So many school’s ultimate goal is simply to win their conference tournament just to make the dance, and switching the system would take all of that away. The smaller conference tournaments would mean nothing.

As someone who used to attend a school in lower mid-major (Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt), I’ve seen the importance of winning that tournament and getting the automatic bid. Yes, if you’re Arkansas-Pine Bluff, you’re getting wiped across the floor by Duke in the first round. But you got to play in the NCAA Tournament. How cool is that?

While Bilas’ proposal leaves the little guys out, it also could affect schools like Syracuse. Just a few years ago the Orange was one of the last team’s out, a bubble team that hadn’t done enough. Under this scenario, SU would’ve gotten the bid – and most of the power teams would be in every year. Where’s the fun in that?

Before the win at Villanova, Syracuse was looking like a bubble team if it struggled down the stretch. Despite losing six of eight, no one doubted SU was one of the top 64 teams – just maybe not one of the top 34. The comfort level throughout Orange Nation would have made for a less interesting final two weeks.

Would you rather see LeBron and Kobe play one-on-one every day for a month, or the abject joy of a 6-year-old putting in his first bucket on the “big boy” 10-foot-hoop?

Right now we have both. While watching LeBron and Kobe duel is amazing, it’s great theater because when it finally does happen we’ve been waiting for it. The anticipation makes the event, and when it meets expectations the game is elevated even further.

There is still something special about that moment when Luther Vandross plays and we reminisce about the one upset no one predicted except that annoying chick who picked her bracket based on mascots. There’s no reason to take that away.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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