We talk college basketball, selection committee, NCAA tournament predictions and on camera style -- one on one with ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.
What is the loudest arena in college basketball for an afternoon game and night game?
For afternoon, the loudest arena I have been in is Kentucky. For ESPN College GameDay we had twenty thousand people in the building at Rupp Arena. Kansas would probably be second at Allen Fieldhouse. For an evening game, when there is a game going on and not just ESPN College GameDay, the loudest arenas I have been in are Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Indiana at Assembly Hall and Wichita State at Charles Koch Arena.
What are the top 5 most passionate fan bases in college basketball?
Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas and Wichita State.
Can you describe gameday when you were an athlete playing in the Duke + UNC rivalry?
It's a level of intensity that is difficult to describe in words. It's just a feeling and it's different. It's a higher level of feeling that you have for than other games. You can try and deny it if you want to and say it's just like any other game but it is not. When you get into the building, the air is different, it's heavier. It is hotter in the building, there are more people around, it's even more intense than a Final Four atmosphere. The results stick with you longer. More people remember how you perform in those Duke vs North Carolina games then in a Final Four game.
Should Tom Crean win 'Coach of the Year'? What is Indiana's road map to beating UNC and advancing to the Elite 8?
Yes, I think Tom Crean is 'Coach of the Year.' To have stuck with this team and got them better over the course of the year to where they are now is amazing. They didn't perform well at the Maui Invitational but they kept plugging. They have become a good defensive team and gosh they are fun to watch. They move the ball and cut at a high level. The road map for Indiana to beating North Carolina is one, transition. North Carolina converts from defense to offense better than any other team in the country. Whether it's a make or miss, they are down the floor. Their guards inbound the ball so their big guys take off and that put's a lot of pressure on the opposing team's frontcourt. When people hear transition they think it's just getting back on defense. It's not, your offense has to help your defense. Taking good shots, taking care of the ball and not turning it over are paramount to help your transition defense. The second ingredient is Indiana needs to rebound against North Carolina. North Carolina is a great rebounding team and they get a lot of second chance opportunities. So limiting them to one challenged shot is really important. That means guards need to rebound. You can't just leave it to the big guys, you need to stick your nose in there and hit the boards.
Do you see an issue with seeding in the NCAA tournament this season? If so, how would you fix it?
I do, I think it was poorly seeded but that has become an annual event. The seeding committee doesn't make mistakes with everything. But when you make one seeding mistake, you actually make two mistakes. This year, Indiana and Kentucky were poorly seeded. Wisconsin, Syracuse, Oregon State, Wichita State were also improperly seeded. There are a number of teams that were seeded too high or too low. Wichita State is not an 11 seed, they are more of an 8 seed. So what winds up happening is it messes up each bracket and punishes the team that they are playing against. You can say Wichita State was disrespected but the real team that was disrespected was Arizona because they had to play against them. Same thing with Miami, they shouldn't have had to play Wichita State in the second round. There are too many formulas and non-basketball people on the committee. They do a good job and the bracket is fine. It is almost impossible to screw this tournament up but it wasn't as good as it could have been.
I am extremely intrigued by your proposed fix for college basketball and how to pay its athletes. Can you explain your vision and touch on how it could serve as a minor league system?
Well college basketball is already a minor league system, just with free labor. And I understand when I say free others may think what about the scholarship that comes along with it? When I played, I enjoyed having a scholarship and so did my parents. But that money was paid to the school from the school. It's not like they are paying some outside third party. It was just a money transfer from one school account to another. So basically what they did was provide me a chair in class and a dorm room. How I see it working is that we all first have to admit that this a multi billion dollar business that is professional in every way except how the athletes are treated. These players are recruited as athletes and they are bought into school to provide a service. Every other student has paid their fair market value and they deserve their fair market value. So I am not saying that Indiana University has to pay their athletes, what I am saying is that every school should be allowed to. Let the market determine the proper value of each athlete just like we do with each coach, administrator and employee. I think what would happen would be rather than less accountability for athletes, I think there would be more accountability for athletes. If you sign an athlete to a contract, you expect that athlete to play for a certain amount of years under certain conditions. If those conditions were not met then you would have contract remedies. It would actually operate in a more orderly fashion then it does now.
How would budgets be regulated per school? Would the money be coming from boosters? Where would the money come from?
The same place it comes from now. Where does the money come from to pay coaches 8 million dollars per year? Nobody ever asks that. When they pay a coach, nobody ever asks well where is the money going to come from? The money is going to come from the billions of dollars that are generated from this collegiate sport. It is also not a zero sum game, values only increase. So when people ask where is the money coming from, as if they are only going to produce that specific amount of money forever. Thirty years ago while I was in school, if you would have said we would be paying college coaches millions of dollars per year in the near future, people would have said where is the money going to come from? Well the money and revenues keep going up, so that is where the money is going to come from. An example is the Big Ten media contracts currently pay out approximately twenty two million dollars per school. In the next five years that figure will be over forty million dollars. So that is where the money is going to come from. There is money flowing through the system that continues to increase. New revenue streams are being exploited every single day. The Pac 12 is trying to get in The Pacific Rim. There is a lot more money out there that is not being realized now.
How have you partnered with LG?
I partnered with LG to be the official color commentator for the NCAA tournament. I have been a customer for a very long time so this partnership is great for me. For every fan their team colors are very important and LG's gameday experience is done correctly. You can see the colors vividly on their televisions while keeping your clothes fresh with the LG Twin Wash System. The experience is top notch.
What are your favorite suits and ties to wear on the air?
I have my suits and shirts made custom because I am a little larger than the average joe. Years ago I had a buddy Tommy Amaker warn me that once I go custom, I will never go back. This was back when we were assistant coaches together at Duke University. I used his tailor and I never looked back. I haven't purchased a suit off the rack since then. So I get suits made to my specifications and they are great. Ties I buy based off of color. I have to be careful with which colors I wear because if you make a mistake you can get in trouble. One example is my wife bought me a purple sweater. I thought I could wear that in Chapel Hill, Bloomington and I happened to be going to Lawrence, Kansas that day. I had the sweater packed in my suitcase and put it on. People were stopping their cars to give me the middle finger. I didn't understand why until I realized that purple is their rival Kansas State's team colors. So that was not such a good choice on my part. I try to avoid controversial colors now wherever I am going.
What charities are you involved in?
There are two charities that I am very passionate about and heavily involved in. One charity is the Duke Brain Tumor Center which I am on the advisory board for. The Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke does incredible brain tumor research and patient care. My sister has recently been through that, not at Duke University, she lives in California but it hits home like very few other things can. The other charity is the Emily Krzyzewski Center in Durham which is a an educational center that Coach K named after his mother. I am also on the board there and am very passionate about it. They pick a lot of under served youth and take them kindergarten through college. It is one of the most effective and heart warming things I have ever been a part of.
What can we expect next for Jay Bilas and can you leave us with a Final Four + National Championship prediction?
As soon as the national championship is over, I am going to try and re-recruit my wife (laughs). Just try and hang out at home a little bit more because I have been gone for so long. She may consider this the best time of year when I am out of town so much but I need to be more of a participant at home then I have been in the previous five months. As for the Final Four, when the brackets first came out I selected Kansas, North Carolina, Texas A&M and Michigan State. Obviously Michigan State is no longer in the NCAA Tournament so I think Virginia is now the team to make it. That would give you three number one seeds and one number three seed in the Final Four. Texas A&M is really good but they have a tough game coming up against Oklahoma and probably should have lost against Northern Iowa but they pulled off a miracle. I have never seen anything like it. Overcoming a twelve point deficit in forty seconds is the damnedest thing I have ever seen in my life. That was crazier than Reggie Miller with eight points against the Knicks in the 1995 NBA Playoffs. The win probability with forty seconds to go was zero and Texas A&M pulled it off. That is why they play these games and call it March Madness.
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