UMBC's epic win proves auto-bids to NCAA tournament need to stay
There has been a lot of recent talk about the fact that auto-bids to the NCAA men's basketball tournament are awarded to mid-major conference tournament champions.
Many spots on the 68-team bracket are taken up by these teams while several solid power conference teams are typically left on the outside looking in, which is the reason for all of this talk.
But all of this talk should subside after the UMBC Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed in tournament history to knock off a No. 1 seed. They did so by knocking off the No. 1 overall seed Virginia Cavaliers. They didn't just knock off the Cavaliers, either. They blew them out by a score of 74-54.
Without mid-major conference auto-bids, this historic upset, which was the first of its kind in 136 attempts, never would have taken place.
The Retrievers only got into the tournament thanks to the fact that they won the America East conference tournament championship over the Vermont Catamounts. They beat the Catamounts on a three-point field goal with just a half-second left in the game.
With a 24-10 overall record heading into the tournament, UMBC would not have gotten in with an at-large bid. In fact, they were nowhere even close to the at-large bubble. Having 10 losses in a mid-major conference is not something that would have impressed the selection committee whatsoever.
But the Retrievers did get in, and they got in thanks to the auto-bid that they were awarded for winning their conference championship. They got into the tournament, and they proved they belonged in it by knocking off the nation's top team, the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers were the top team in the nation's top conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, all season long. They entered the tournament with a 31-2 overall record and a 17-1 conference record, which was four games better than the second place ACC team, the Duke Blue Devils.
Even if they had lost a game in the ACC tournament, they were essentially a lock to be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament given how dominant they were throughout the regular season.
They earned the No. 1 overall seed after winning the ACC tournament, and they entered the NCAA tournament on an eight-game winning streak as ACC regular season champions and ACC tournament champions.
The Cavaliers had the nation's top defense coming into the tournament, as they allowed an average of 53.4 points per game throughout the season. The Retrievers would put up 53 points on the Cavaliers -- in the second half alone.
After Virginia allowed more than 70 points in a game for the first time in the last 35 games to a mid-major conference team en route to the first loss by a No. 1 seed to a No. 16 seed in NCAA men's basketball tournament history, it is abundantly clear that auto-bids for mid-major conference tournament are not going away.
It should be even clearer that they should not go away.