Are Conference Tournaments Weighted Too Heavily?

Erik Nybro, Staff Writer

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For some small schools, whether it is Division II or Division I, the conference tournaments are way more important than the regular season.

For all schools in NCAA basketball every team’s goal is to make the NCAA tournament, and for a select few, it is to win the tournament.

The goal of the NCAA tournament is to get the best teams playing against each other in order to eventually find a winner. The NCAA tournament is exciting and creates great moments. Sometimes, however, the best teams do not get into the tournament, or their seeding is ruined for losing in their conference tournament.

This does not make sense.

Why do only about three games (depending on which conference they are in) matter more than the whole entire season? In other sports they play less games during the season, but the conference tournament is also smaller.

For instance, in Division I basketball, 68 teams make the tournament, but it is not necessarily the best 68 teams. Each conference tournament winner gets a spot in the NCAA tournament in Division I, which is definitely fair, but the best team during the whole season does not necessarily get in.

For instance, in the Northeast Conference (a small Division I conference), if Sacred Heart went 18-0 in their conference, and they had a bad day and lost to Central Connecticut early on in the conference tournament, they would still not make the NCAA tournament.

Even if Central Connecticut went 3-15 during the regular season, Sacred Heart would not get in because they had one bad day after having a perfect record. Being the best team in the conference does not guarantee making it to the NCAA tournament.

How is that fair?

A team works their tail off all year to achieve a perfect record and be the best team, but just because they lost that one game in the small conference tournament, they will not get a chance to play in the tournament that is supposedly for the “best of the best”. In some of these smaller conferences, the 18 games in the regular season does not even matter. All that matters are the three or four games in the conference tournament. This situation happens every year in March during conference tournament season in DI basketball. It may not be to this extent, but usually at least one team that dominated during the regular season does not get in to the NCAA tournament.

A situation with the conference tournament possibly almost cost the University of New Haven a trip to the Elite Eight in Women’s Volleyball. The conference tournament issue is not just an issue in basketball, it is a problem in all NCAA sports. The Chargers volleyball team went 14-0 in the regular season of the NE-10, pretty much demolishing most teams in sight. Going into the conference tournament, the Chargers were ranked second in the East region only behind LIU Post.

Luckily for the Chargers, they escaped the NE-10 unembellished, even though in all 3 of the tournament games they went five sets. LIU Post was not as lucky. They had a great regular season in their conference where they went 12-2 and even had a non-conference win against the Chargers.

However, LIU Post failed to beat NYIT in the final of the East Coast Conference tournament. Since they were unable to win the postseason tournament, they dropped from the number 1 seed to the number six seed because of just one game. It was not like they lost to a bad team either. NYIT was a team that made it to the NCAA tournament.

What if the Chargers were unable to win one of those fifth sets? Would we be sitting here saying that the Chargers were East region Champs?

Maybe not.

For one thing, they would have never been able to play all of their games in front of their home crowd. The conference tournament clearly has too much power as one game can kill a whole season of hard work and great playing.

There is one easy fix to this problem.

If the best team from the regular season does not make it to the conference final, they deserve a chance to play the conference tournament champion for the right to the NCAA berth. That would be a true test of who deserves to make the NCAA tournament. If the team with the best record ends up losing in the final, or losing against the conference champion, they deserve to be done. This would be an appropriate way to fix this issue with the NCAA tournament.