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View Full Version : Jay Bilas article: No to expansion, yes to quality



NotoriousZ
03-05-2009, 03:49 PM
I think this is an "insider" article at espn.com so I don't think a link would work, but here's what he said:

"The NCAA tournament is the best sporting event on the planet, but it could be better. For a few years, key voices around the game have called for the further expansion of the tournament from 65 teams to 73 teams or 128 teams, or even to open it up to every Division I institution, fashioning it after the old days in the Indiana high school state tournament.

The argument for the expansion of the tournament field is a simple one. More good teams play in Division I than ever before, and every time in the game's history when the number of good teams has increased, the NCAA has expanded the field. The argument against doing so is the same that you have heard with regard to the wild card in Major League Baseball and the NFL. Expansion dilutes the field and renders the regular season and conference tournaments less meaningful and less compelling.

Yet, there is the lobby for "fairness" to the mid-majors. There is no question that several quality mid-major teams are left out of the field each year. (Several quality major conference teams also are left out of the field each year.) And even though mid-majors make up almost half the NCAA tournament field every season, there is no question that the best mid-majors are in the field.

It would be really easy to better ensure that the very best teams, the best majors and mid-majors, receive the chance to compete for the national championship. Doing so would provide an opportunity to far more really good mid-major teams to play in the NCAA tournament than the current system allows.

My suggestion is not to expand the field, but to change the method of qualifying for the field. In the current system, there are automatic qualifiers, 31 "conference champions" that gain entry to the tournament field by virtue of winning their conference crowns (whether through a tournament or by having the best regular-season record, as in the case of the Ivy League). Of those 31 teams, usually only eight to 12 conference champions would be expected to make the field absent winning the conference crown and automatic bid.

For example, in the vast majority of cases, winners of the automatic bid from the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC would have made the field anyway. (Certainly, exceptions exist, such as Syracuse in 2006 and Georgia in 2008). A few conferences also have put forth multiple bids into the field such as the Atlantic 10, Colonial, Conference USA, Metro Atlantic, Mid-American, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, WAC and West Coast. The truth is, we could reasonably expect only about 15 conferences to put multiple teams into the field. And that is probably being a bit generous.

But there are just as many "one-bid" conferences that have little or no hope of sending more than one team into the tournament field: the America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Horizon, Ivy, MEAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt and SWAC. The teams from these conferences have not been competitive in the tournament at the highest level, and the tournament "upsets" by teams from these conferences have been few and very far between.

The SWAC has won one tournament game since the field expanded in 1985. The Ohio Valley hasn't tasted victory in the Big Dance since Ronald Reagan was president. Take out the opening-round game in Dayton, and the Northeast Conference has a drought that extends back to 1983.

If the goal is to have the very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament, and to have an eye on providing a chance to the very best mid-major teams, expanding the field is not the answer. The answer lies in shifting the automatic bids to the best teams in the country.

Instead of placing automatic bids in the hands of teams that traditionally are cannon fodder for the big shots, why not award the bid to the very best teams?

The argument against this is a sentimental one. To take away the automatic bid from the teams in the SWAC, Big South, Southland and the other "one-bid" leagues is to take away the dream of competing in the Big Dance. Well, by treating the automatic bid as a populist giveaway, which is exactly what it is, are we not denying the dream to kids at Tulsa, Penn State, Northwestern, Nebraska, San Diego State, Saint Mary's and perhaps even Davidson? Is their dream somehow less commendable? And in our rush to be fair, are we not being horribly unfair to much better teams?

Any argument that the automatic bid for smaller conferences provides an opportunity for the little guy to climb out of the position he's stuck in is not persuasive, either. Hampton beat Iowa State years ago as a 15-seed and automatic qualifier, and it has seen no jump in status or level of play. Similarly, no team from the other "one-bid" leagues has seen a rise to the level of the "big six" conference teams by virtue of the automatic bid. It just doesn't work that way. The teams that have been good throughout the years would be just as good without the automatic bid.

If the field is kept at 65 and teams are selected based on the 65 best teams in the country, rather than the 31 automatic qualifiers and the 34 best teams after that, more quality mid-majors would be in the field, not fewer. And those quality mid-majors would have a more realistic shot to win once they would get there. It would be a fair fight, and it would be more competitive.

The NCAA tournament is a national championship event. It is not and should not be about feel-good stories and attempts to even the playing field that can never be evened by a social-engineering exercise of giving away spots in the field to some while leaving out teams we know are better. The NCAA tournament is and should be about the best teams in the country competing for the national championship. If the committee can select 34 teams, it certainly can select 65.

And the NCAA tournament would be more exciting, not less. Who says the stories about Tulsa, Creighton, Siena or Northwestern wouldn't be just as feel-good and compelling as the stories about the teams that won an automatic bid but we know are really are not as good as those teams left out? Plus, the little guy would win more often if the committee were to select the very best of the mid-major bunch. The only way to get more even competition is to select the very best teams. Right now, that doesn't happen.

But you know what?

The bottom line remains this: No matter what changes I propose, it's still a great tournament, and the best there is."


I disagree with Jay. If they make a change, expansion is the way to go. Not to 128 teams however, that would be ridiculous! If there are 16 or so one bid conferences, having eight "play in" games would allow for seven more quality teams to make the tournament (seven instead of eight because there's currently one "play in" game). Those eight winners would be first round fodder for the one and two seeds. You could take it even further by making the eight winners play a second round and have those "lucky winners" play the number one seeds in the big show. That would allow for 11 more teams to get in. Although this is crippling to the one bid wonder conferences, it's better than cutting them out all together. What are your thoughts?

BobZag
03-05-2009, 04:26 PM
My brain hurts.

Firstly, no expansion. No way, no how.

That said, I like your idea, Z, if there is to be change.

CDC84
03-05-2009, 04:56 PM
Another problem is that Bilas' ideas of what the best teams are usually revolves an "eye test" as opposed to what is on paper.

How about cutting out some division one teams? Does D-1 basketball really need 340+ teams? Does the New Jersey Institute of Technology really belong at this level?

gamagin
03-05-2009, 05:04 PM
i would tend to back the ncaa inclusion into the various leagues and give that advancement some sort of status. Nothing would change at the dance level, though.

afterall, that is what the elimination process is all about. so expand at the bottom end, not the top, if any expansion is needed at all in what even the author agrees is "the best" already.


Go Zags !

75Zag
03-05-2009, 05:04 PM
Does D-1 basketball really need 340+ teams? Does the New Jersey Institute of Technology really belong at this level?

Easy boys! In light of our recent victory over USC upstate, now might not be the best moment for GU fans to suggest that certain teams don't deserve the D-1 label.

Compared to the crap that is the BCS football playoff system, the NCAA basketball tournament is perfect in every way. Let's not change perfection.

Go Bulldogs. Here we go to Vegas!

rennis
03-05-2009, 05:16 PM
I say eliminate the conference tournaments and award the auto bid to the conference champ. that would open up 4 or 5 spots each and every year...

or even keep the conference tourney's, just don't base NCAA auto-bid on them.

Once and Future Zag
03-05-2009, 05:21 PM
Compared to the crap that is the BCS football playoff system, the NCAA basketball tournament is perfect in every way. Let's not change perfection.


Compared to the BCS, a blindfolded, sedated chimpanzee with a dart and a dartboard is a perfect way of determining a national champ.

VinnyZag
03-05-2009, 05:30 PM
This isn't an original thought, but others have suggested making the play-in game be for the final at-large berth as opposed for conference champion automatic qualifiers. I've always felt that would be more fair -- if you win your league you should get to play in the NCAAs.

If we're hell-bent on expansion, how about this: Take the last four teams to make the tournament and have them play the best four teams to miss the tournament in play-ins. And reserve the 12-seed line or something for the four winners.

NotoriousZ
03-05-2009, 05:43 PM
My brain hurts
Firstly, no expansion. No way, no how.

That said, I like your idea, Z, if there is to be change.

Sorry, my brain also hurt after reading the post. If your's is hurting like mine because of the bold text I used to differentiate my text with Jay's, you'll be glad to know I won't do that any more. If it's hurting because of the long article, you can blame Mr. Bilas. Let me see if I can edit the post so it's easier to read...

BobZag
03-05-2009, 05:48 PM
Sorry, my brain also hurt after reading the post. If your's is hurting like mine because of the bold text I used to differentiate my text with Jay's, you'll be glad to know I won't do that any more. If it's hurting because of the long article, you can blame Mr. Bilas. Let me see if I can edit the post so it's easier to read...

Just joshin' ya, Z. :)

NotoriousZ
03-05-2009, 05:52 PM
No problemo Bob, but I did edit out the boldness and it's much easier on the eyes now (for those who haven't read it yet).

CB4
03-05-2009, 06:17 PM
I don't think expansion is necessary either. If it aint broke don't fix it.

If they feel the need to expand the tournament then I agree that the eight team "play in" series (4 games, 8 teams) is the best way to go. That being said, the play in games should include conference winners if they would normally be ranked 66, 67, etc. But once again, there's absolutely no need to change the world's greatest tournament.

bballbeachbum
03-05-2009, 08:20 PM
Jay Bilas knows how to use the language...whoa.

Cinderella IS what the tournament is about...and also deciding the national champ, of course...but come on, they share the spotlight, and don't we know it! Jay disagrees. Once again imo, Jay Bilas reveals his perspective...the man.

You want wide, sweeping conclusions, Jay's your guy:

Any argument that the automatic bid for smaller conferences provides an opportunity for the little guy to climb out of the position he's stuck in is not persuasive, either.

This quote I found particularly arrogant. Serioulsy, what does he know about being a little guy, what an ncaa bid means to them, etc. I'll stop.

My first thoughts were exactly like CDC84's...like it's best to trust the BCS power brokers to make sure "the best" teams get in. HA! don't get me started..........

did I catch some weird political innuendo commentary in there too? or is the Pinot that good :D

edit: in fairness to Jay, I do read him. Just read this report of his on two big games this weekend Duke UNC, Pitt UConn; enjoyed it and his take

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/notebook?page=notebook/weekendwatch0603

Robzagnut
03-06-2009, 07:36 AM
[B]
I disagree with Jay. If they make a change, expansion is the way to go. Not to 128 teams however, that would be ridiculous! If there are 16 or so one bid conferences, having eight "play in" games would allow for seven more quality teams to make the tournament (seven instead of eight because there's currently one "play in" game). Those eight winners would be first round fodder for the one and two seeds. You could take it even further by making the eight winners play a second round and have those "lucky winners" play the number one seeds in the big show. That would allow for 11 more teams to get in. Although this is crippling to the one bid wonder conferences, it's better than cutting them out all together. What are your thoughts?


I disagree with you. 65 is perfect. Diluted fields are bad. I want to see the best, not a bunch of 18-12 teams limping into the field just because their name happens to be Major U.

All the teams are already in the tournament... it's called the conference tournaments. They get their chance to get hot and win a spot in the NCAA tourney (see Georgia 2008).

Adding more teams adds another weekend or some teams must play three games instead of two in a weekend. Three two game weekends is just right.

HillBillyZag
03-06-2009, 08:36 AM
The "Big East will probably send 6-8 teams to the dance. No doubt its the toughest hoops league in the land but its also way too big and has at least four teams that will always have long odds of making even the top tier of the conference let alone a Title.

bullzag23
03-06-2009, 08:45 AM
I disagree with you. 65 is perfect. Diluted fields are bad. I want to see the best, not a bunch of 18-12 teams limping into the field just because their name happens to be Major U.

All the teams are already in the tournament... it's called the conference tournaments. They get their chance to get hot and win a spot in the NCAA tourney (see Georgia 2008).

Adding more teams adds another weekend or some teams must play three games instead of two in a weekend. Three two game weekends is just right.

"All teams" are not already in the tournament. Those who do not happen to be the Ivy League regular season champs(Cornell) will not have any shot at getting to the postseason, as this league does not have a conference tournament. There are also 15 Division 1 independents(but most of those are in transition to D-1 anyways). Regardless, I don't believe any more expansion is needed for the tournament. Like someone above already posted, start with the bottom, leave the top alone. Although I am in slight favor of removing all conference tournaments and instituting the "Regular Season Conference Champ Auto-bids" instead. Isn't one of the main concerns diluting the importance of the regular season? If you win your conference, you're in. How could the regular season be more important than that(please don't point to the BCS here :p )

cjm720
03-06-2009, 09:08 AM
Makes a lot of sense to add more teams. There's more parity than ever. If you add more teams, it will translate to a longer tourney (which from a fan perspective is great) and will result in more money for schools (and CBS).

GO ZAGS!!

CDC84
03-06-2009, 09:08 AM
I realize I have made these points in the past, but they are worth repeating:

1) The only group of people who are seriously calling for an expansion of the tournament are the coaches. And the only reason they are doing so is to protect their own self interest. A whiner like Jim Boeheim realizes that the more teams you allow into the dance, the less coaches will be canned. Do not trust anything else that the coaches say. It's all about job security issues. If the coaches zipped their lip on this whole subject, I doubt you would see many articles along the lines of what Jay Bilas has written. The tournament is perfect...the only thing that fuels the expansion discussion are the coaches.

2) The NCAA tournament is never going to see radical expansion because CBS doesn't want it. The coaches can whine all they want, but CBS calls the shots, and the NCAA is at the mercy of what CBS wants due to all of the money they are giving them to televise the tournament. Some of the reasons why CBS doesn't want it (which have been written about in countless articles over the years):

a) They don't want the NCAA tourney to be diluted by a bunch of mediocre teams who haven't accomplished enough to participate in the king of all postseason tournaments.

b) The whole bubble discussion, which is only popular due to how few teams are let into the field, drives up TV ratings in the weeks prior to Selection Sunday.

c) Expansion would require the tournament to start earlier, and hence, the regular season to start earlier due to CBS' broadcast commitments to the Masters golf tournament.

d) 25+% of all office workers in America participate in an NCAA tournament office pool. The key piece of those office pools is a single bracket that fits on one page and is understandable to everyone. Like it or not, office pools are to a large degree responsible for the popularity of the NCAA tourney, and a great many of the people who participate in them don't follow college basketball on a regular basis. The tournament format needs to be kept simple to accomodate those casual fans and all the betting that takes place during March Madness.

I also think an expansion of the tournament would lessen the amount of quality non-conference games we see, and hence, would hurt TV ratings in November and December. It would also hurt the preseason tournaments like Maui, etc. Again, teams are encouraged to schedule tough opponents outside of league due to a fear that a bad non-league schedule might hurt their chances of making it into the NCAA field. Allowing everyone into the tournament would encourages teams to sit at home and play no one.

cjm720
03-06-2009, 09:09 AM
I say eliminate the conference tournaments and award the auto bid to the conference champ. that would open up 4 or 5 spots each and every year...

or even keep the conference tourney's, just don't base NCAA auto-bid on them.

My understanding is that the conference adminsitration choses how the conference determines who gets an auto-bid, not the NCAA. That is, not all conferences get an auto-bid if they win the conference tournament. I can't think of any off hand though.

GO ZAGS!!!

zagfan24
03-06-2009, 09:23 AM
I like Jay Bilas but he grinds this axe every year and it gets really old. The tourney is fine as it is, and if you ignore the name on the front of the jersey, you'll see some teams in big conferences aren't going to be any more competitive than many of the mid-majors. I agree that mm's shouldn't get special preference, but Jay has a pretty obvious bias towards the big guys and it shows through in an article like this.

The only thing I'd do is get rid of the play in game. Like mentioned above, it would make more sense for bubble teams than conference champs - except that you'd have to leave a 10-12 seed open instead of the 16 spot.

As far as conference champs - I like how the WCC tournament gives a large reward (a double bye) in exchange for a great regular season. This factors in the regular season while still, theoretically, giving every team a chance.

lothar98zag
03-06-2009, 11:04 AM
My understanding is that the conference adminsitration choses how the conference determines who gets an auto-bid, not the NCAA. That is, not all conferences get an auto-bid if they win the conference tournament. I can't think of any off hand though.

GO ZAGS!!!
This is true - each conference picks how they give out their auto bid. They could probably draw a name from a hat if they wanted to.

The Ivy League doesn't have a tourney and gives it's auto bid to the regular season champ. I'm 99% sure all the other auto bids come from tourneys.