Roy Williams has stated for years that he feels a conference's regular season champion should get the conference's automatic tournament bid, rather than the conference's tournament champion. Should the regular season champion get an automatic tournament bid? Or the conference tournament champion?
My answer? Yes.
If you're going to do it, both should get it. We should do away with at-large tournament bids, give every conference two bids and expand the field to 72.
Much like how international soccer leagues' non-premier divisions hold playoffs to determine who gets promoted, I think the conference tournament should be played among every runner up in the conference as a winner take all event. The conference champ gets an automatic bid, and every other team in the conference plays each other for the right to the other automatic bid.
With 36 conferences, this leaves us with 72 tournament entrants. You may do one of three things.
1. Hold eight play-in games at Dayton over Monday and Tuesday to determine the 15 and 16 seeds. This gives the lowest seeds a chance to at least win a tournament game before being fed to the #1 and #2 seeds on Thursday/Friday.
2. Hold a pair of 4 team play in tournaments at Dayton on Monday and Tuesday among the lowest 8 rated teams in the field, to determine the lowest #16 seeds for Thursday/Friday's round of 64. This gives the field of 64 a little more stuffing, since more of the lowest rated teams would knock each other out during these play ins.
3. Take a page from the conference tournaments and "stepladder" the rounds with byes to reward the higher seeds. Perhaps the top 8 teams (all the #1 and #2 seeds) get a bye to the round of 32, while everyone else has to play on Thursday and Friday. This jacks with the seeding, with 18 teams now in every region rather than 16, plus instead of 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15... 3 plays 18, 4 plays 17... down to 10 playing 11... while #1 and #2 get the 1st round off.
The obvious issue with this more objective format for determining tournament teams is that you involve fewer of the power conference teams, which not only dilutes attendance and viewership, but also doesn't allow these conferences to rake in extra tournament money. That alone will likely prohibit the NCAA from ever eliminating the placement of at-large teams from the tournament.
Still, if Roy Williams is serious about giving the conference champ an automatic bid, there would need to be a carrot for the conference tournaments, which obviously won't ever go away. This would be the most workable solution, outside of that silly 96 team expansion idea the NCAA had a few years ago.