Disputing Jay Bilas

21 Jan

March 9, 2009

On March 5th Jay Bilas wrote a column entitled, “No to expansion, yes to Qaulity” for ESPN.com. In it Bilas’ premise was to invite the 65 best teams in the country to the NCAA tournament by taking away the automatic bids from the “one-bid” conferences such as America East, SWAC and the Big South, and awarding them to major and mid- major teams who find themselves on the bubble such as Northwestern, Penn State, Tulsa, Davidson, etc. As Bilas states, “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.” I could not disagree with this more.
First of all, I do not believe the tournament would be more exciting. To tell people that seeing Penn State make an elite 8 run by beating three teams who, during the summer would gladly schedule the Nitany Lions in the regular season is more exciting than say a College of Charleston making the same run against the same three teams, who almost certainly would be extremely hesitant to schedule the Cougars and risk damaging their own resumes. I believe Mr. Bilas misses the boat with what makes March Madness.
March Madness IS about feel good stories and the David vs. Goliath aspect of it. It is about Geroge Mason’s run, it is about Davidson and Western Kentucky battling for a spot in the Elite 8, it is about Bryce Drew’s miracle to beat Mississippi, it is about a Hampton or a Coppin State or Bilas’ ESPN colleague Tom Brennan and Vermont, it is about Harvard becoming the ony 16-seed to beat a #1 (in the women’s tournament). These are the exact reasons the NCAA tournament is the best sporting event on earth, not because some 8-8 team from the Big Ten is better than the conference champion of the Southland Conference. At the end of the tournament there is always a “One Shining Moment” montage that is full of these underdog moments because for almost all of them this is there one moment to shine, and Mr. Bilas proposes we take that away from them. What is the committee going to say, sorry Radford you and Louisville both won your conference tournaments but we believe Providence would be better suited for your tournament spot? That is seriously disjointed.
Bilas makes a claim that by awarding automatic to these seemingly non-competitive conferences we are depriving other, perhaps more deserving (see better) teams of their dreams. Well, by that logic wouldn’t we be constricting the “national-ness” of the tournament and depriving teams of their ONLY dream. What if this was done in the NFL ths season? What if Commissioner Goddell took away the Arizona Cardinals playoff spot and awarded it to the New England Patriots because hey they’re a better team and blew out Arizona. We all would have been deprived of one of the best Super Bowls ever.
I am not disrespecting Mr. Bilas he knows his basketball, but I believe he completely missed the boat on what makes March Madness run. So while you’re watching the tournament in the coming weeks and some team like a Northern Iowa makes a run at the sweet 16 and Northwestern may win a game or 2 in the NIT, let’s enjoy the greatest sporting event on the planet no matter how it is constructed, the NCAA Tournament.


College Hoops Haven


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