Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Modest Proposal: Changing Up Conference Tournaments

Beginning June 17,  a series of  articles titled "A Modest Proposal" will be appearing every other Monday. The dates are June 17, July 1, July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26, September 9, September 23, October 7, and October 21. The ten part series will include ideas for ways to increase attention to the SoCon, Mocs basketball, NCAA basketball, or mid-major basketball. This is part one. Here's a link to all the articles.

I love college basketball. I love the regular season. I love the conference tournaments. I love the Big Dance. I love college basketball.

That being said, it is easy to understand why so many fans are fair weather fans that show up after the Super Bowl ends. In a sport where a last place team can go into March and get to keep playing as long as they keep winning, it's easy to dismiss the first three to four months of the season.

And that, on the whole, is bad for the sport. In most conferences, the best team may be forced to play one less game than the last place team, but that's really not a major deterrent to finish last. Yes, I realize that in the SoCon no team that has had to play four games in four days has also won the SoCon Tournament. So there is an advantage. Still, how much of an advantage is it? It's an advantage, but I think it should be a bigger advantage.

Why would smaller conferences want to send their seventh best team to the NCAA Tournament as opposed to their best team? I understand why they want every team to be in the conference tournament. By doing so, it gets fans from every team to potentially buy tickets to the tournament. That helps create some atmosphere at the tournament. But why would they want to not do everything possible to help one of the best teams win and represent the conference?

Therefore, I believe that more of the smaller conferences should employ what I call the West Coast Conference bracket. In this format, there are only eight teams in the conference tournament, but the best two teams get a double bye. It can be done with any size bracket, though. Let's look at an 8 team bracket, 10 team bracket and 12 team bracket.

8 Team
Round 1
5 vs. 8
6 vs. 7

Round 2
4 vs. 5/8
3 vs. 6/7

Round 3
1 vs. 4-5/8
2 vs. 3-6/7

10 Team
Round 1
5 vs.10
6 vs. 9
7 vs. 8

Round 2
4 vs. 5/10
3 vs. 6/9
2 vs. 7/8

Round 3
1 vs. 4-5/10
2-7/8 vs. 3-6/9

12 Team
Round 1
3 vs. 12
4 vs. 11
5 vs. 10
6 vs. 9
7 vs. 8

Round 2
2 vs. 7/8
3/12 vs. 6/9
4/11 vs. 5/10

Round 3
1 vs. 4/11-5/10
2-7/8 vs. 3/12-6/9

In an eight team or ten team league, both of the top two seeds get double byes. In the twelve team bracket, the two seed gets one bye, while the one seed gets a double bye.

Does this guarantee that the best teams will win the conference tournament? No, but it sure helps. Also, it provides distinct meaning to later season games. Some people say, "What if the first and third place teams aren't separated by much at all? That two game difference is sure a big advantage."

I don't care. That provides all the more meaning to the regular season. Think about it. It's a twelve team league. Three teams head into the final weekend fighting for the one, two, and three seeds. How critical would those games be? Under the current twelve team format, sure they matter, but all three of those teams will receive byes in the conference tournament. So that makes those games much more important.

I like the additional meaning that having the regular season champ get an automatic invite to the NIT. I still think this could do even more for the smaller conferences. Sure, I don't think the SEC, ACC, Big East, etc. should move to this format, but a conference like the SoCon, Horizon, Big West, Sun Belt or the OVC should move to a format like this. It would add meaning to the regular season, while also helping get the very best teams in the NCAA Tournament, while not totally eliminating teams from getting hot and getting into the Big Dance.

If you have any thoughts on this and would like to discuss, feel free to comment, tweet, or send me an e-mail at MocsBasketball97@yahoo.com.

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