This year, the 2020-2021 COVID-19 stricken college basketball season, should be the year where the Mid-Major and Low-Major conferences disband their conference tournaments. Now, a quick disclaimer, I work for both the University of Toledo and the University of Michigan, even though those ties don’t bind to this argument.
It’s important to note that High-Major conferences are not one-bid leagues. Take for instance, the BIG 10, they will have somewhere between 6-9 teams make the NCAA Tournament this year (probably). But, for the Mid-Major and the Low-Major conferences (like the Mid-American Conference for example), they are 1-bid leagues. That means that only 1 team from those conferences will get a shot at the NCAA Tournament.
GIVE MID-MAJORS AND LOW-MAJORS A CHANCE
You have to go back to the 1999 season to find 2 teams from the MAC make the “Big Dance”. We were somewhat close in the 2019 season, when then head coach Nate Oats (now at Alabama) had led the Buffalo Bulls to a Top-25 ranking as high as #18 in the country (28-3 that season). Buffalo had a Top-25 win at West Virginia 99-94 in OT and a Top-25 loss at #20 Marquette 103-85. They would only lose 2 games in MAC play and many believed that had they been bounced from the MAC Tournament, they would have gotten an at-large bid to the NCAAs.
The Conference Tournaments in college basketball have existed since before 1950, but what doesn’t make sense about these conference tournaments is punishing teams that have put together months of work to be their conference champions and in the event they fail in 40 minutes during a conference tournament game, their NCAA Tournaments hopes are ruined. Let’s take a look at Toledo for example. The Rockets are currently 16-5 overall and 11-2 in MAC play as I’m writing this. They have a 1.5 game lead on Akron and they’re 3 games up on Kent State and Ohio. Toledo is currently 60th in the KenPom rankings and 60th in the NCAA’s newer NET rankings (which replaced the RPI). Last time I checked 68 teams will make the NCAA Tournament, including those “first four” games, so why on Earth, should a team with a KenPom and NET ranking inside of 68 be held out of the tournament field that is supposed to find us the 68 best teams in the country?
REMEMBER BAD GAMES HAPPEN
You could replace Toledo with Central Michigan or Western, or Eastern for all I care, my point remains the same. Why would a team that has proven itself for months during the regular season, not represent their conference come tourney time if they get unlucky for 40 minutes or just flat out have a bad night during their conference tournament. People tell me all the time that they really don’t follow college hoops until the NCAA Tournament because they don’t care for the regular season. Well, we’ve rendered the regular season useless for a majority of teams competing at the D1 level because you could lose every game throughout the regular season but get hot for a 4-5 day stretch during your conference tournament and your ticket is punched.
This year, with all of the COVID-19 issues programs are dealing with on a regular basis, this is the perfect year to cancel these tournaments and reward the team that showed us the best consistent product week after week. What if your #1 seeded team in a conference tournament gets a star player put into the COVID protocol? You take away a 20-point scorer from a team during the most important game of the year? It doesn’t make sense. Let us rid ourselves of these tournaments and start putting the emphasis back on who put together the best season, your season champion should get the berth.
Photo from utrockets.com