Thursday, March 13, 2014

Marching Towards Madness

TigerBlog went to to help make his anti-conference tournament case when he was greeted by the unexpected sight of Jamie Zaninovich and his son Max on the front page.

The older Zaninovich is the commissioner of the West Coast Conference. The story on was focused on his side venture, as a member of the Division I men's basketball committee.

As you can imagine, this is a fairly busy time of year for Zaninovich. He's currently in Indianapolis with the rest of the committee, in advance of the announcement of the men's basketball field of 68 Sunday.

Jamie is in his third year on the committee. He does a great job of communicating his travels and thoughts during the season on Twitter, something that adds a nice flavor to what it's like to have a piece of the responsibility for such an overwhelming large and popular event

Before Jamie was the commissioner of the WCC, he was a senior associate AD at Princeton. He's also a Stanford grad.

Zaninovich was clearly a basketball guy back then. He was also clearly destined for something beyond Princeton, and it wasn't surprising when he left to become a conference commissioner.

He's something of a natural for the basketball committee.

The story on follows Jamie for a day during the WCC tournament, as he's watching games in person for his day job and five other games at the same time - four on his laptop and one on his phone. Of course, it's a labor of love for him; otherwise, why do it?

One thing that TB learned from the story was that Jamie's father recently passed away, and TB sends his condolences.

After reading the story about an old friend, TigerBlog went back to looking up the results of completed men's conference tournaments to date, which means most of the one-bid conferences.

If TB did it right, there have been 12 completed tournaments and another that has its championship game set.

So far, five No. 1 seeds won the tournament, three of whom defeated the No. 2 seed, with one win over the No. 3 and one over the No. 4.

Of the other seven, the No. 1 seed lost in the final five times, three times to the No. 2 seed. The other winners were the a four and a three. There was also a three seed over a five seed and a five seed over a three seed. The remaining championship game was will be the four seed against the two seed.

In other words, in 12 conference tournaments, the one seed is 3-3 in the final against the two seed, 1-1 against the three and the four. In only five of the 12 conferences will the top seed represent the league in the NCAA tournament.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, it depends on what you value. If you want the excitement of the league championship game, then the conference tournament works well.

If, like TigerBlog, you 1) value the regular season and 2) want to give your league the best chance to win the NCAA tournament, then the way the Ivy League - and only the Ivy League - does it is best.

Every other league has a tournament, and TigerBlog has heard so many times that the Ivy League is missing out by not having one. Really? As Marvin Bressler used to say, "there's no idea so bad that it's not worth copying."

What is the point of a regular season that results in a less than 50% chance that the team that proved itself best over the course of two months represents that league in the biggest event? And who has a better chance of getting a win in the NCAA, league-champion Robert Morris or had-to-win-the-league-tourament-to-get-back-to-.500 Mt. St. Mary's?

At least this year had, what seems at least, more 1 vs. 2 games than previous years. If there has to be a playoff to determine the league's representative, TB would be okay with a 1 vs. 2 championship game. Or, even better, 3 at 2 one day and the winner at 1 the next, giving the one-seed a big advantage.

One of the 1 vs. 2 games was the Patriot League final between American and Boston University. TB was rooting hard for American in this one.

Why? Because the Eagles are coached by Mike Brennan, whose staff includes assistant coach Scott Greenman. Both are Princeton alums, former guards with the Tigers. Both Brennan and Greenman are also alums of John Thompson's staff at Georgetown.

Brennan moved into the starting lineup as a freshman, when George Leftwich was injured late in the season. Brennan, from Elizabeth High, scored nine points in the 1991 NCAA tournament loss to Villanova at the Carrier Dome, a loss that still annoys TB all these years later.

Brennan went on to become one of Pete Carril's all-time favorite players. Carril was on CBS the year after Brennan graduated, essentially to talk about his own career, and he famously started telling Pat O'Brien about how his team wasn't going to be any good because he'd lost his point guard.

TB saw basically every game Brennan played at Princeton, and he can't remember a time when he said more than three words after a game. Brennan would be an assistant coach at Princeton at one point, before going to Georgetown, and he even coached the Tiger jayvees with fewer than 20 people watching at Jadwin.

Now, in his first year at American, he's headed to the NCAA tournament. Winner of the Patriot League, as the No. 2 seed of course.

In this case, TB is okay with it.

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