Why automatic bids should be eliminated

Updated: February 15, 2012, 3:43 PM ET
By Jay Bilas

Ever since Murray State tumbled unexpectedly to Tennessee State, the bubble talk began to swirl around the Racers. Suddenly, a team that previously was undefeated and ranked in the top 10 of the polls might need to walk a tightrope in the conference tournament just to make the NCAA tournament field. To me, this is silly. Silly not because the Racers are tournament locks in my mind but because they belong in the field and their exclusion would point directly to a serious flaw in the way we decide the national championship.

Murray State is clearly one of the 68 best teams in the nation and has proved as much in the course of its nonconference schedule with wins against Memphis, Southern Miss, Dayton and UAB. The Racers sit at No. 55 in the RPI, No. 46 in ESPN's BPI and an even loftier No. 29 in my Bilas Index. This team is good and belongs in the bracket. That it might miss the NCAA tournament altogether illustrates the problematic nature of the automatic bid and how it hurts, not helps, competitive programs outside of the major conferences.

In fact, the more I consider how the automatic bid affects the fairness of the NCAA tournament, the more I am convinced that automatic bids should be eliminated altogether.