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Dorau The [Sports] Explorer: Bilas Misses Big Picture for Big Dance


By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

In the CCSU Men’s Basketball media guide, freshman guard Robby Ptacek said the reason he chose to play here at Central was “for a chance to play in the NCAA Tourney.”  If Jay Bilas of ESPN has his way, Ptacek will never set foot in the Big Dance.

I understand that part of the ESPN-ization of the world means that their talking heads are the singular voices for movements like this, but the absurdity of Bilas’ plan to improve the quality of the NCAA Tournament is vocal enough where he can be referenced as its leader.

Bilas has encouraged the idea that the top 65 teams be included in the tournament, eliminating the automatic berths from each conference.  His arguments in defense of doing so are all fatally flawed.

So how exactly would we go about selecting the top 65 teams?  Maybe we should use the current polls in place combined with computer selection?  The BCS is a joke.  If the NCAA Tournament goes to that formula, it would be regressing in entertainment value.  We clamor in the fall for a playoff system in football, and here in basketball season, we have that coveted playoff system, and now we’re in danger of screwing it up.

According to his article, Bilas says the argument in favor of automatic bids “is a sentimental one.” While there may be a hint of truth to that, it is far more an argument against exclusion, inequity, greed, and monopolization.

So I ask, if automatic bids are removed from the NCAA Tournament, then what the hell are all the players here at CCSU playing for? 

When I stormed the court with hundreds of other fans in March of 2007, it wasn’t simply because the Blue Devils won the Northeast Conference, it was because they were going to the big dance and the players that worked so hard were finally going to get their shot on the national stage.

Sixteen total conferences would have their automatic bids revoked under Bilas’ plan, including the NEC. He cites each small conference’s lack of success in March Madness, which is a part of what makes the tournament so great.

It means West Cupcake University from the South-Central Great Lakes Athletic Conference gets their opportunity to play against the best that the NCAA has to offer. 

They have the same road to take to a National Championship as all the other teams.  Six wins, and congratulations, The West Cupcake Fightin’ Bunny Rabbits are your National Champions. 

Let’s not overlook the aspect that nobody will talk about. Once again, sports becomes about the almighty dollar. Of course the BCS conferences would love to keep small conference teams out of an NCAA Tournament that would quickly become their own personal playground. 

There would not be any true upsets, because the vast majority of teams in the field would be from major conferences that have a far larger recruiting base than mid-majors and schools from small conferences.

Part of the famous line from The Shawshank Redemption is “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” When Central made it into the Tournament in 2007, obviously there was less than a slim chance that the Blue Devils would win. In fact, I expected the team to lose by a lot more than 21 points.

What kept running through my mind leading up to the game against Ohio State was the fact that Central still had a chance.

It might have been a one in a million shot, but they had the opportunity to be the first ever 16 seed to defeat a top seeded team. They even stood on the same ground as the 64 other teams to win a national title, if you ignore the running joke that is the play-in game.

The beauty of the setup is that a powerhouse one or two seed is rewarded for a good season with first round game against a lower-tier team. The Tournament in its current format is the ultimate meritocracy.

If a team did not get in, they have nothing to blame but their body of work, not a team from a one-bid conference.

Even with 31 bids being considered automatic, that allows for 34 other teams to get in.  We’re supposed to believe there are more than 34 true contenders for a National Championship?

If automatic bids are removed as a qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, that undying hope, that opportunity for a bonafide miracle to occur will forever disappear. Not just for CCSU, but for all the teams in the NEC and every other conference that may not be as high-profile as the BCS schools.

But that’s okay, Mr. Bilas. Just take away everything that the Men’s Basketball team is playing for here at Central. 

Ignore the dream of Robby Ptacek and hundreds of other players at smaller schools across the country. You keep doing that and we’ll keep ignoring your plan to “improve” the tournament. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.