The conference tournaments are the opening act to March Madness. Now that they are over, many workders will have their bracket handy in their office cubicle to record that vision of the grand upset and ultimate winner. More enthusiastic fans will argue about seeds and who didn’t get invited.
I’m sure being on the committee is both rewarding and difficult. Given the 347 teams, the committee must narrow the field to 65 while working within their established rules – let alone create the actual bracket.
College sports are big … not only high interest, but also big dollar. Unlike their BCS counterparts, at least basketball produces a legitimate champion who is unquestionably recognized. However, like its gridiron counterparts, the power schools dominate the scene at the expense of the mid-majors. Basketball teams are also following football’s recipe of out-of-conference scheduling involving more home games against mid-majors in order to reach that 20-win mark.
Let’s see – How many teams outside of the non-BCS conferences received at-large invitations? Four: Xavier, Butler, Dayton, and BYU.
How many at-large teams had conference records of .500 or less? Five: Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, and USC. Sorry, if you can’t finish with a winning record in the conference, no big dance for you! Besides, are their at least five more-deserving teams?
How many #8 seeds or lower get to play close to home? One: Ohio State – such a possible reward for top-seed Louisville. Hmmm … did the inclusion of Michigan and Minnesota affect OSU’s playing site?
I remain against the conference tournaments as they give less meaning to a season. A mid-major team can dominate their conference during the season, but that one off night could keep them out of the big dance. On the other hand, their conference takes the risk by accepting sponsorship and television money for the event. Keep in mind that since there’s only so much TV time, numerous mid-major conferences adjust their tournament schedule to get the money and additional media exposure.
Meanwhile, the start of the dance is just around the corner. Although mid-majors have minimal chance of landing in the Final Four, let alone becoming a national championship, mid-majors are the ones who capture the hearts of basketball fans. When all is said and done, use the BCS model to figure out the selection process – just follow the money.