Tuck: Conference Tournaments Should Be Smaller
College basketball tournaments are fun. It’s championship week. Often times it’s at a neutral site, which can make for a fun trip. And of course, it’s a chance to make up for an average, below average, or bad regular season. After-all, who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?
Well, I’ll tell you who. Middle Tennessee doesn’t. They went 19-1 this year in the Sun Belt and are probably sitting out the Big Dance. Norfolk State doesn’t. They compiled a 16-0 conference mark but were upset in the MEAC tourney. Northeastern and Robert Morris aren’t fans.
The problems are obvious:
You want to have a tournament because of the money made and exposure given.
You don’t want to have a tournament because it potentially ruins 3 months of great basketball with one bad night.
So, I recommend this compromise. And I suggest it for all conferences.
Only the top 4 teams play in the conference tournaments for leagues that have under 12 teams.
Only the top 8 in leagues that have 12 or more teams.
Conference expansion has made it so that often you don’t get to play balanced schedules, so sometimes there will be years that the team with the best record may only have it partly because of an easier schedule, so in essence may not be the true champion. Electing just the regular season champ is fair, but not black and white obvious for many conferences. By having a smaller tournament, including just the upper crust of a conference, you eliminate factors of scheduling, bad luck, injuries, and give all the teams that may be deserving a shot. You would not be rewarding the mediocre or bad teams by extending them another unearned opportunity. Yes, you’ll still take the chance that you eliminate a Middle Tennessee or Davidson (who won their tourney), but most leagues aren’t typically so one-sided.
In a league where you have more teams, you’d be able to include more teams because in those leagues it is more likely that something like an unbalanced schedule could turn the tables of power and the middle of a bigger conference would typically be stronger and more deserving of an opportunity.
Bottom-line is you still get to have a tournament, but you limit it to the better teams in the conference and don’t give the unreasonable opportunity to a bad or undeserving team to sneak their way in with a hot week.