Syracuse Basketball: Tom Izzo's comments on auto-bids for mid-majors are obnoxious

Tom Izzo says auto-bids for mid-majors have to be examined. Michigan State's 2016 loss may have helped Syracuse basketball.
Tom Izzo says auto-bids for mid-majors have to be examined. Michigan State's 2016 loss may have helped Syracuse basketball. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

I acknowledge that this column doesn't have a ton to do directly with Syracuse basketball, but comments I saw on Wednesday from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo got me fired up.

First and foremost, I want to say that I think Izzo is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport. He's a Hall of Famer. He's won a national championship, been to multiple Final Fours and taken the Spartans on many, many deep runs in March Madness.

Yet on Wednesday, I read an article from excellent ESPN writer David Hale regarding Izzo's thoughts on the future of the NCAA Tournament, and candidly, some of Izzo's comments irritated me like nobody's business.

With the collegiate athletics' landscape evolving all the time, due to conference realignment, the transfer portal, NIL and other factors, there's been a lot of chatter about potentially expanding the Big Dance, an idea that I don't love. And neither does top analyst Jay Bilas of ESPN.

In any event, Izzo's comments on Wednesday seemed to suggest that the NCAA ought to examine whether mid-major programs should receive automatic bids to the annual March Madness in the future. That. Is. Utter. Nonsense.

Former Syracuse basketball head coach Jim Boeheim has also weighed in on the Big Dance.

Boeheim, the long-time legendary head coach of the Orange who retired a year ago, won a national championship in 2003 and advanced to five Final Fours. He recently had some choice words for the NCAA's NET rankings system.

Getting back to Izzo, a post on X from Hale read: "Tom Izzo says autobids for mid-Majors has 'got to be looked at seriously' because 'while everybody likes the upsets in the first round I’m not sure if that’s true as it goes on.'"

I get that NCAA leaders and other stakeholders have to continually look at the financial aspects of the Big Dance, but if mid-major programs don't receive automatic bids in the future for winning their respective conference tournaments, how are any of them going to ever receive invites to the NCAA Tournament?

A lot of mid-major teams don't play the same kind of rigorous schedules as squads in power conferences, and that's inclusive of both non-conference dockets and league schedules.

Plus, to me, the best part of March Madness is all the big-time upsets and Cinderella stories. So we're going to take away auto-bids for mid-majors and get more sub-par power-conference teams into the tournament?

Hey, maybe that could help get the Orange into the field of 68 more in the future, but I'd rather see a mid-major that won 28 games in the regular season get an invite rather than a power-conference group that was under .500 in conference competition and won fewer than 20 contests overall.

Izzo added of the NCAA Tournament's future, "It's all about what is best for the financial part of it, if I'm going to be very blunt, more than it is the players and teams."

In the 2016 Big Dance's round of 64, No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State shocked No. 2 seed Michigan State in the Midwest Region. The No. 10 seed Syracuse basketball, in the round of 32, would have faced Michigan State had it prevailed.

But the Orange ended up playing, and beating, Middle Tennessee State, and the 'Cuse would go on a magical journey to the Final Four. Maybe Izzo is still bitter about that 2016 opening-round loss to MTSU.

All kidding aside, if the auto-bids for mid-majors are done away with, we'll potentially lose some of the beautiful things that make March Madness, well, maddening. Loyola Chicago in 2018. VCU in 2011. George Mason in 2006. Saint Peter's in 2022. Davidson in 2008. Butler in 2010 and 2011 (before joining the Big East Conference). Florida Gulf Coast (hi, Georgetown) in 2013. Florida Atlantic and Princeton a season ago. And so on and so forth.

I respect Tom Izzo. He's a great coach. I just adamantly disagree with him here.

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