Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What's The Point Of This?

Hey, Sun Belt Conference, welcome to a No. 16 seed.

What? That possible Sweet 16 trip? That's gone. Way gone. That ended when Middle Tennessee State, whose regular-season league record was five games better than any other team in the league, was beaten by Florida International in the conference tournament semifinals.

FIU then lost to Western Kentucky, the sixth seed, in the championship game. Western Kentucky, at 19-15, is likely headed to a No. 16 seed and quick first-round exit, whereas Middle Tennessee State might have made some noise with the right draw.

And then there's the Big South, where Liberty is headed to the play-in game, which makes one's league look like something of a joke. In the 12-team Big South, only two teams - Presbyterian and Longwood - had worse records than Liberty. Those two teams? Yeah, they were a combined 16-49 overall.

Liberty? The team got hot for a few days and stole the tournament. Good for them. Now they're headed to a play-in game.

Of course, there was a huge crowd to see Liberty defeat Gardner-Webb in the final. Well, if you consider 2,598 to be a huge crowd. The Sun Belt Conference final? The box score doesn't even list attendance.

TigerBlog, again, cannot for the life of him understand why one-bid basketball leagues want to have a conference tournament.

The big conferences? Yes, TigerBlog gets it. Huge crowds, a money-making venture, a chance to perhaps grab an additional bid or two.

The one-bid leagues? Where is the upside?

The idea that Middle Tennessee State isn't representing the Sun Belt in the NCAA tournament is ridiculous. As bad as it is that the league's chance to actually win an NCAA game is gone, even worse is the fact that every single regular-season game in the league was meaningless.

Every single one meant nothing. In fact, every single regular-season game in every one-bid league is meaningless, except for whether or not a team can get a bye in the first round of a tournament.

Ask Niagara, Loyola and Rider about the value of the MAAC regular season, where those three had a great race to the finish. None made the final, let alone the NCAA tournament.

MTSU entered the conference tournament knowing that its 27-4 record at the end of the regular season was worthless. It knew that it had to win the tournament to get into the NCAA. That's a lot of pressure to have hanging over you.

All of this brings us to the Ivy League.

Princeton is at Penn tonight in a doubleheader, with the women at 5 and the men following. Neither game means a thing for the postseason, as Princeton's women and Harvard's men have already clinched the conference titles and will represent the league in the NCAA tournaments.

As it should be.

The regular season matters. Maybe there are games at the end between teams that are mathematically eliminated, but then again the games tonight in Philadelphia wouldn't mean anything if there was a conference tournament coming up either. 

Isn't it obvious? TigerBlog doesn't for the life of him understand why any league would want to compromise its chance to send its best team to the NCAA tournament. For what? To have a game on ESPN?

The big payoff is the NCAA tournament, figuratively and, if you manage to win, literally.

TB is a big fan of the Ivy League lacrosse tournaments? Why? Because the Ivy League isn't  a one-bid league. Plus, after a single round-robin, the separation between the top teams in the league isn't as definitive.

The same is not true after a double round-robin.

Plus, in the Ivy League lacrosse tournament, only the top four in the regular season advance. The result is that the regular-season is completely enhanced, since every game ends up being wildly important.

If a one-bid basketball league wanted to have its top four play for an NCAA bid, okay, maybe.

Nah. On second thought, no way.

TigerBlog would love to see all of the other one-bid leagues follow the Ivy League example and simply send the regular-season champion to the tournament.

Until they do, then they're going to have completely meaningless regular seasons where nothing matters except for a few days this time or year.

It's not smart at all.


Anonymous said...

One of the primary arguments for the pro-tournament crowd is, "Because everyone else does it." And, given basic human nature, that's a compelling argument emotionally, if not rationally.

If you're the commissioner or a university president in the Sun Belt or Big South conference, it takes initiative and political capital to lead an effort to make your conference the only one in the country not to conduct a tournament (excepting, of course, those egghead ivory tower nerds in the Ivy League).

To be the only salmon swimming upstream on this issue requires principle and, frankly, ego. Fortunately, the latter is something that we have in abundance in the Ivy League.

Anonymous said...

The payday from ESPN is the only reason the one bid leagues render their regular seasons meaningless.Lets hope the Ivies don't succumb to the same financial temptation.

ketz said...

Well I really hope that FIU had beat Western Kentucky but FIU fails me. Hope they can win the trophy next time.