Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Madness

The Ivy League regular season for basketball ends tonight with three games: a women/men doubleheader at the Palestra between Princeton and Penn and a women's game that sees Dartmouth host Harvard.

Dartmouth has already clinched at least a tie for the league title but needs a win tonight to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament; should Harvard win, there would be a one-game playoff for the bid. On the men's side, Cornell has already clinched the championship and automatic bid.

This is the way it should be. Cornell has clearly established itself since January as the best team in the Ivy League. Dartmouth and Harvard have gone back-and-forth since the same time and come to end neck-and-neck.

What TigerBlog cannot understand is why the Ivy League is the only league that sees the logic in sending the regular-season champion to the NCAA tournament. Yes, it's great to have all those games on TV this week and to see the great celebrations for teams going to the NCAA tournament, but these tournaments in one-bid conferences are missing a bunch of points:

* the real value for a one-bid conference is to have a win in the NCAA tournament; you need your best team to achieve that
* the conference tournament is no longer the only opportunity to get your teams on TV ... almost every conference has multiple games on any number of outlets during the season
* playing three games in three days (or in some cases four in four) doesn't lead to high-quality basketball at the end; instead, it's often rag-tag at the end, which leads to upsets
* the postseason tournaments aren't money makers

Ironically, it's the last one that's going to be the eventual difference-maker. Conferences won't be able to lose money at huge rates for postseason tournaments, and that's when changes will come.

As for the Ivy League, let's look at the men's side and do the math figuring a Princeton win over Penn (it's our blog; let QuakerBlog do this with a Penn win). Also, we're not doing too much of the math with the tiebreakers, since there are ties all over the place. Let's just break the ties alphabetically, which would the eight seeds go:
1. Cornell
2. Princeton
3. Yale
4. Columbia
5. Dartmouth
6. Penn
7. Harvard
8. Brown

The result would be one half of a bracket that has the Cornell-Brown winner against the Columbia-Dartmouth winner, with the Princeton-Harvard winner against the Yale-Penn winner.

Say the final was Cornell against either Princeton or Yale, both of whom have shown that on any given night, they could beat the Big Red. Suppose one of them stole the bid. How would this make sense? Cornell won by three full games during the regular season.

Now, for multiple bid leagues that sell out major arenas and have the conference tournaments help them get extra at-large bids, TigerBlog understands completely. That's why TB is in favor of the Ivy lacrosse tournaments. Ivy League lacrosse is sort of like Big Ten basketball in that regard.

For basketball, though, only the Ivy League has it right. Hopefully it'll never change, just to be like everyone else. Remember what your mother always said: if everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you do it?

TigerBlog agrees with your mom on this one.

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