Home Mailbag: More automatic bids for power conferences in the NCAA Tournament, CFP

Mailbag: More automatic bids for power conferences in the NCAA Tournament, CFP

Chris Graham
college basketball money NIL
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I know that metrics are necessary in the very difficult comparisons between teams that play very dissimilar schedules. It seems to me that an unavoidable weakness is, they largely rely on the first two months of the season, when, increasingly, teams are rebuilding after the transfer shuffle.

A conference that has a good November and December gets a permanent boost from conference games throughout February and March. A conference with a poor November and December is permanently disadvantaged because its conference games don’t count for much. The result is situations like the Mountain West

I’d like to see more automatic conference tourney bids, based on past conference tourney performance, while leaving enough at-large bids for truly worthy mid-majors, and a few mid-table power conference teams with outstanding November-December resumes.  

If the football playoff expansion includes a larger number of automatic bids for the power conferences it will be a bit of an experiment of how such a system might work in basketball. I’d welcome a system that helps restore the relevance of conference regular-season races. It’s a strange outlier in sports to have a system in which arguments rage whether a team with an 8-12 conference record is actually more worthy of the postseason than a team with a 12-8 record. These things are supposed to be decided on the court, not through statistical analysis.

At the end of the day, granting power conference multiple automatic bids based on regular-season performance is actually a very incremental change that simply helps prevent the ACC’s wacky treatment this season, in which Pitt was about the only power conference team that was beat out by teams that finished lower in its conference.


The Mountain West was the seventh-rated conference in the NET, and got six bids. The ACC was the fourth-rated conference in the NET, and got five.

Yeah, something is wrong here.

Computers only spit out good info if the algorithms are fed good info.

That’s the bigger issue here.

There’s got to be a way to build an algorithm that weeds out what the Big 12 did this year, having its schools schedule so many weak non-conference opponents, then beating the tar out of them, to rig the performance metrics in their favor.

The Big 12 was 32nd among the 32 conferences in aggregate non-conference strength of schedule, and yet came out of December as the highest-rated conference in the computers.

Schools that scheduled tough in November and December are penalized under that kind of system.

If I’m Tony Bennett, I just schedule 12 cream puffs around the ACC-SEC Challenge, and then start ACC play.

Automatic bids for anything other than the conference champ is a non-starter, and I hope the CFP doesn’t fall sway to whatever pressure the SEC and Big 10 think they can wield to reward their second- and third-place teams with automatic bids.

Just for me, if they go that route, I will care even less about FBS football than I do now.

I don’t put a lot of thought, personally, into college football other than covering the UVA team. Because our team is not a player at the top level of that sport, I can focus on covering the team and not worry about how messed up it is at the top level.

My view on the CFP is, the more fan bases – not just in the Power 4, but across FBS – that can be tricked into thinking their team has a chance to make the playoff, the better for the sport.

If we’re just going to have a bunch of SEC and Big 10 teams, why not let them break off and form their own super-league and move on?

I’d say the same for college basketball. The magic of the NCAA Tournament is the notion that a double-digit seed can win a game or two, or like George Mason or VCU a while ago, can actually get to a Final Four.

If the suits can figure out a way to make literally every college football game from September to Thanksgiving weekend mean something, that would be printing money.

These suits, though, being suits, will not miss the opportunity to step on their own dicks, of course.

They resisted even having an actual playoff for how long, for example.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].