So you like championship week right? You like the drama, the Cinderella stories? ESPN loves it, of course, hoping for reruns of Hoosiers each night this week.
But for the traditional one bid conferences in the NCAA tournament--and that could be as many as 22 of the 32 conferences who will receive guaranteed bids in the 68-team field when it is announced next Sunday-- a dangerous game, which totally devalues the regular season, is again unfolding.
If you doubt that, check how they feel at Monmouth this morning, where the team that breezed to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season championship with an 18-2 record--four games better than the runner up-almost certainly will not be Dancing in the NCAA tournament.
The Hawks lost in the semifinals of the MAAC to Siena, which finished the MAC season with a 12-8 record. The MAAC likes the big feel of tournaments and plays on "neutral'' sites, which was in Albany, N.Y--which also happens to be where Siena is located.
More about that later.
It marks the second year in succession Monmouth has breezed through the MAAC conference regular season, but then lost in the conference tournament The consolation prize is a bid to the NIT.
In the Ohio Valley Conference , Belmont finished with a dominating 15-1 regular season, but also lost in the tournament. In the SWAC, Texas Southern finished with a 16-2 record and will not be dancing if it loses this week.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
And then we come to the Ivy League, which fought off Championship Week Fever for years, contending that the regular season champion in an 8 team conference with a round robin schedule was enough to determine who was the best.
This season, Princeton had a spotless 14-0 record, easily outdistancing runner up Harvard which finished with a 12-4 mark.
But the Ivy broke down and will have a mini-tournament this weekend, with the Top 4 teams facing off: 1. Princeton 2 Harvard 3. Yale 4. Penn
So far so good right? Well, the tournament is being held in the historic Palestra in Philadelphia, which is also the home court of....Penn.
Beating any team three times in one season is difficult, but beating an arch rival on its home court?. And if Princeton does that, it is likely to see....Harvard, which lost a pair of games to the Tigers this season by a combined total of 5 points, in games which were not decided until the final seconds each time.
It would seem that the risk-reward factor is not worth it for conferences which traditionally only receive one bid. But television wants programming. And the money offered, once it is divided among the teams can not be worth the risk of wiping out the hard work of a regular season championship, can it?
""I always wondered why one bid conferences even play conference tournaments,'' said former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who ran a league which once received an NCAA 11 tournament bids.
There is a solution to this, of course. The NCAA can change its rules and hand its automatic bids to each REGULAR season champion, leaving 36 at-large bids open for everyone else.
The argument you hear, of course, is that would devalue "Championship week''
But it would seem giving up one week of potential highlights and Cinderella story lines to make sure the BEST teams from the regular season are playing in the NCAA tournament would be worth it.[/membership]