Gary Williams says NCAA tournament should eliminate automatic qualifiers

By Harry How/Getty Images.
By Harry How/Getty Images.

 

When I wrote that the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is not the best sporting day of the year, some people accused me of being a grouch.

Maybe so, but I’m not nearly as grouchy as Gary Williams. The former Maryland coach — and longtime mid-major antagonist — was on ESPN 980 this week, and he proposed fundamentally altering the very foundation of this event.

“I think it’s a good number right now, the 68,” Williams said, when asked about further expansion of the field. “But I think the one thing they should do, they should be able to seed a field 1 through 68, and do away with the automatic qualifiers. Now, that would upset a lot of conferences. See, football already did this. When they went BCS, they basically told all the kind of mid-major football teams that you’re not gonna be a part of this anymore, and that’s the way it’s gona be.

“The NCAA tournament right now is kind of like Little League – you know, you give everyone a trophy for participating. Let’s get the best teams out there and let’s see what’s gonna happen. I know one thing: When they get the expansion of these conferences…when the dust settles, you’re gonna see a push to go to an 80-team tournament, with the five major conferences providing all the teams.”

It goes without saying: in an all-at-large tournament, Harvard isn’t getting in. It also goes without saying: If 14-seeded Kentucky takes down New Mexico, not that many people would get excited. But Williams clearly believes what he says; he also said this, when asked about Roy Williams being upset that the ACC only received four berths this month.

“There’s 32 automatic qualifiers,” Gary Williams noted. “I guarantee you, Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, they would win [against] 25, 26 of those [teams]. And so when anybody ever wants to tell you that it’s the best 68 teams in the tournament, it’s not. And that’s proven. It’s just not. Everybody likes those happy stories, unless you’re coaching one of those teams in the BCS that doesn’t get in the tournament — then you’re in trouble. So it all depends where you’re looking from. If you think they’re great stories, fine, but I agree with Roy Williams.”

And since he was on a roll, he also dropped this line, while pointing out how Jim Boeheim continually lobbies for more and more Big East bids.

“I’ll tell you what,” Gary said: “If Boeheim’s here next year, he’s gonna say the ACC’s the best conference ever.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · March 22, 2013

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