Friday, March 15, 2013

Again, What's The Point Of This?

Perhaps TigerBlog should have waited a few days for his annual anti-Ivy League basketball tournament thoughts. Perhaps he should have waited for today.

Oh well. He can always add another verse.

Back on Tuesday, TB wrote about how the conference tournaments do more harm than good for one-bid leagues.

It's only gotten worse as the week has gone on.

How about the MEAC, where the semifinals feature the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth seeds. Remember last year, when Norfolk State defeated Missouri in the first round of the NCAA tournament? Remember this year, when Norfolk State was 16-0 during the regular season?

Remember the other day, when Norfolk State lost 70-68 in overtime to Bethune Cookman, improving the victors to 14-19 on the year and ending any thought the MEAC had of another NCAA tournament win?

You want closer to home?

How about the WAC? Well, maybe that's not exactly close to home geographically, but how about what happened to former Princeton coach Joe Scott?

A week ago, the Pioneers were cutting down the nets after defeating Louisiana Tech to tie for the league championship.

Yesterday, both teams went out. La. Tech fell to 11-21 Texas-San Antonio. Denver fell to 12-21 Texas State. The league fell from a good seed to a bad seed (if New Mexico State wins) and a terrible seed (if anyone else does).

Again, TigerBlog does not understand why these leagues want to completely devalue their regular seasons, all in the name of having a conference tournament to determine the representative to the NCAA tournament.

Again, add the MEAC and WAC to other leagues where the regular season meant absolutely zero, not one thing at all. No game, not one single game, mattered.

It's like that in every one-bid league.

Remember, Division I exploded in the number of teams and conferences in the 1980s or so. Back in 1979, there were 21 leagues that earned automatic bids to the NCAA tournament. Now there are 31.

The growth of ESPN is what really led to conference tournaments, as the network began to televise as many title games as possible. Back then, this would be the only way for a league to ever dream of having a game on ESPN or ESPN2.

Hey, TB was at the 1993 Northeast Conference final between Rider and Wagner, when Rider's Darrick Suber made a classic buzzer-beater to send the Broncs to the NCAA tournament for the first time. It was a highlight all over SportsCenter, and it made it onto highlight reels from Championship Week for years to come.

It's one of the greatest sporting events TB has ever seen in person.

Is that worth the risk of what is happening now to so many one-bid leagues? The only reason some of these teams won't be 16-seeds is because there can only be so many of them.

Here are TB's reasons for being anti-conference tournament:

1) the regular season means nothing at all. If you want to say that in the Ivy League there are late-season games between teams that are out of it that mean nothing, okay. But what about a league like the MAAC, where there is so much balance every year? What regular-season game matters? None. Or, for that matter, in any one-bid league?

2) every league has games on television now. It's not longer necessary to have a championship game as the only vehicle for getting TV exposure, since so many regular season games from every league are on. And, beyond that, there are so many championship games on now that who is watching any of them anyway? They all start to look the same for the one-bid leagues.

3) a league gets its real exposure from winning in the NCAA tournament. It takes your strongest representative to do that

4) an Ivy tournament would surely be a money loser, likely played in front of tiny crowds

Here are the reasons, as TB understands it, for wanting to add a conference tournament:

1) everyone else does it - this is simply absurd thinking.

2) it gives every team a second chance, so that a team like Columbia, who got off to a 1-3 start in men's basketball this year, still has something to play for the rest of the way. The flip side of this is that by doing this, no regular-season game matters. In any way

3) the experience for the athletes. Extrapolate this out and the implication is that players who might otherwise want to play in the Ivy League choose to go elsewhere because those leagues have a conference tournament and the Ivy League does not. Is there a single player anywhere who has ever made such a decision? TB used to have the same conversation about media guides, by the way.

4) exposure. This argument resonates a little with TB. It's not so much the game on TV part; it's the idea that the Ivy League champion is often crowned in very anti-climactic circumstances. Still, how many people remember Suber's shot? Compare that to how many people remember Gabe Lewullis' shot.

5) there is only one reason TB would want to see an Ivy League basketball tournament, and ironically it's for a reason that rarely is discussed. Were there an Ivy League basketball tournament, it would also guarantee the league an NIT bid in the event the regular season champ did not win the conference tournament.

TigerBlog would trade 10 dramatic buzzer-beaters in conference tournament finals for one epic NCAA tournament win for a one-bid league. You don't get the win in the NCAA tournament when your semifinals are 5 vs 8 and 6 vs. 7.

Like TB said Tuesday, there's a huge difference between an Ivy lacrosse tournament and an Ivy basketball tournament. It's certainly possible to be pro the first and anti the second.

If there had to be an Ivy League basketball tournament, per se, then TB would want to see either the top four only or, even better, the top three only. In that situation, 3 would play at 2 one day and the winner would play at 1 the next.

This way, the regular season still matters a lot.

TB said it last year (and he'll probably say it next year as well), but he just doesn't get how so many of these leagues don't abandon (or radically change) the conference tournament format.

In the meantime, there are so many teams that have earned the right to be in the NCAA tournament who won't be because of these tournaments. And once those teams lost, the chance for those leagues to make a bigger splash next week has vanished.

Okay, two anti-conference tournament rants in one week is all you get.

So good luck to Harvard when the bids come out Sunday.

Maybe as a Princeton fan, TB is disappointed that his team won't be on the board. On the other hand, he knows that Harvard clearly has earned the right to represent the league.

Anyway, TB has a big lacrosse game to worry about tomorrow, as Princeton is at Penn at 3, so no more about conference tournaments.

Until next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The bird with the thorn in its breast, it follows an immutable law; it is driven by it knows not what to impale itself, and die singing. At the very instant the thorn enters there is no awareness in it of the dying to come; it simply sings and sings until there is not the life left to utter another note. But we, when we put the thorns in our breasts, we know. We understand. And still we do it. Still we do it." -- Colleen McCullough