Friday, March 2, 2012

Why VMI?

TigerBlog was watching "Around the Horn" and then "PTI" yesterday, in much the same fashion that everyone else does.

They watch the first show because it's on before "PTI," even though the show itself is only about 10% as good. Hey, if Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon were on "Around the Horn," then that show would be better.

Anyway, as the shows were playing, the ever-present crawl along the bottom of the screen kept rolling. Over and over and over, TigerBlog was told the news that in the Big South semifinals, it would be seventh-seed VMI vs. sixth-seed Winthrop, because those two had beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.

Now, after VMI beat Winthrop 75-55, it's No. 7 VMI (regular-season record of 14-15) against No. 1 UNC Ashville. VMI went 8-10 in the league in the regular-season, while UNC Asheville went 16-2, finishing eight games ahead of the Keydets in the standings.

In fact, UNC Asheville won the league by four games, over the Coastal Carolina team that VMI beat in the quarterfinals.

In their two regular-season meetings, UNC Asheville beat VMI by three points and nine points. In other words, is it out of the question that VMI can continue its roll and knock of the favorite?

Why focus on the Big South Conference?

Because it shows the inanity of the whole conference tournament system.

There is no way VMI deserves to go to the NCAA tournament. Sorry. No offense to the Keydets, but it has been proven through the year that UNC Asheville is the Big South's top team.

And if the Big South is going to make a name for itself, won't it be because UNC Asheville gives it the best chance of winning a first-round game? VMI, should it win, would be be in one of the play-in games (its RPI is 281). Asheville wouldn't exactly be a Final Four favorite, but it does have an RPI of 118.

Each year at this time, TB enjoys watching all the games on TV during "championship week," but he shakes his head at the same time.

Why do leagues insist on risking not sending their best to the NCAA tournament - and lose big money at the same time while hosting the conference tournament.

Yes, it's time for another installment of TB's long-time series: "TB hopes the Ivy League never adopts a conference tournament."

Look at the Princeton women. Has there been a team that's dominated its league more this winter? Nope.

Princeton wrapped up the league with three games to go, is undefeated heading into tonight's game at Yale and has won every game by double figures, including 10 of 11 by at least 25 points.

Is there any question what team should represent the league in the NCAAs?

On the men's side, it's a bit murkier.

Harvard and Penn have two league losses each; Yale and Princeton have four. Still, Yale has beaten Penn and Princeton has beaten Harvard, so clearly there is a highly competitive top four teams.

Wouldn't that make a tournament interesting?

Sure it would. And it would give each team hope for advancing to the NCAA tournament.

Except this isn't fourth grade, where everyone gets a trophy for showing up. This is NCAA Division I basketball. You should have to earn your chance through the course of the year, not be rewarded for getting hot over of a few days this week.

And, as teams bunch of games as they get further into tournaments, players get tired, play gets sloppier and anything can happen.

Should Harvard and Penn sweep this weekend (or split), then Penn would have to beat Princeton Tuesday to force a playoff for the NCAA bid. Okay, TB is fine with that.

A full tournament? No, not even if it helps Princeton this year.

What's that you say? The Ivy League has cost itself an opportunity to have a game on ESPN or ESPN2 during championship week?

TigerBlog knows that eight times as many people watched the lowest rated conference tournament final on TV last year than watched the Princeton-Harvard playoff game on ESPN3. And if there had been no playoff game, then there would have been no ESPN3 game either.

To which TB says, so what? It's all about the NCAA tournament, getting your best team in the field to make a splash for your one-bid conference.

If the Ivy League does want to guarantee itself a championship game each year, then instead of a tournament, why not just have No. 1 play No. 2 for the automatic bid? Or even better, have No. 2 play No. 3 the day before and then the winner plays the rested No. 1, giving No. 1 more of an advantage.

Just don't go to a conference tournament.

Let's recap: the best team doesn't always get to the tournament, and the league loses money on its event, all in the name of having one game on TV in an era when basically every game is on anyway.

Where's the point in any of it?

Enjoy the games - and the fact that the Ivy League is doing the right thing.


Anonymous said...

If the regular-season champion of a one-bid league is incapable of winning its own tournament, what possible chance is there that it will have any success in the NCAAs?

Anonymous said...

There is such a simple solution here for the one-bid conferences.

#1 plays #2 for the NCAA bid at the #1's home court.

The regular season still matters. Placing first is obviously huge in having home-court advantage for the final.

The league is sure to send a good team to represent at the tournament and gets the championship game on TV.

George Clark said...

A neutral site conference tournament for the Ivy League is impractical, as well as contrary to the ideals we continue to espouse, even in the present "Made for TV" culture that pervades so much of the collegiate sports world. The NCAA bid received by the league champion is, in most years, a reward for having won the 14 game tournament, rather than the stepping stone to post season glory. As I write this 4 Ivy teams have a chance to receive invitations to televised tournaments, which will give the League TV exposure and the kids a great experience. In an era when there are virtually no "big" games of any consequence until March, every Ivy League game matters a great deal. Just ask Mitch about the visit to Ithaca in mid-January.