Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Which stands for the Event Which Shall Not Be Named, also known as the season-ending event for the Big East men's basketball season held in Madison Square Garden.

I've never hid my disdain for the Big East's post-season basketball tournaments. Contrary to popular belief, however, it's not because ND historically has not done well there. Rather, I hold disdain for ALL post-season conference basketball tournaments, Big East or otherwise. I believe they are a blight on the landscape of college basketball.

First, they render the regular season meaningless. The hard work a team has done over 10 or more weeks can be undone by a bad 20 minutes. Teams get postseason rewards they do not deserve, both on the positive side (a team that underperformed for most of the season gets hot for four days and gets a bid) and the negative side (a team losing seeding position, if not their bid itself, because of a bad game in a conference tournament).

Second, they can have an adverse effect outside the scope of their own conference. When a team that otherwise would not have received a bid to the NCAA tournament gets one by virtue of winning one of these abominations (let's call them Team A), that bid is not always given at the expense of another team in that conference (as it should). More often than not, a team in a different conference (let's call them Team B) is deprived of that NCAA berth. Yes, a reasonable argument can be made Team B could have done more in its season overall to ensure the bid. But Team B certainly did more during the season than Team A, because until Team A took their slot, Team B had a much better chance of inclusion due to a better resume.

Third, they exist solely to make money. Spare me the pleas about cool games and appealing matchups. The conferences want to milk the cash cow via the television rights. The school wants their cut by demanding high donations from alumni and fans to get the limited tickets. Ticket brokers have a field day from both sides.

Fourth, they promote unbalanced scheduling in conferences. If the EWSNBN did not exist, the Big East could play 18 conference games instead of 16, which would allow all teams to play each other at least once. Think the teams finishing just behind ND in the conference would have liked to see the Fighting Irish have to take on league-leading Pitt, possibly giving ND one more loss? Granted, the BE is going to 18 games next season anyway, but it's at the cost of two non-conference games that could be used to create compelling matchups. Instead, we'll probably see even fewer quality opponents out of conference while the 18-games-plus-tournament rule remains.

Fifth, they're physically dangerous for the players. I realize they're young, well-conditioned athletes. But they're also at the tail end of a long season. Few, if any, other sports at any level demands its participants play four two-hour high-energy games in four days in this manner. The situation almost begs for serious injuries, and I can't see most college coaches happily accepting a loss of a key player for the meaningful postseason.

I realize the tournaments are unlikely to go away any time soon, but I'm not going to let that stop me from railing against them.

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Blogger Mike Squyres said...


Another perspective: conference tournaments give a team a chance to measure itself among its peers by the pure standard of winning the last game of the season.

As long as we have a national tournament which has been expanded to include so many teams with no chance to win, we settle for judging a team by whether, or not, it is even invited. This demeans whatever the team has accomplished over a 25 - 30 game season.

In fact, teams arrange their local schedules to enhance their chances of being invited to the national tournament even though they know they probably won't win even one game.

I'd rather put more emphasis on the conference tournaments and then have a system where no more than 16 major, highly-ranked teams move on the the national tournament.

Arguments on whether a team should be invited should be based on whether, if invited, that team had a chance to win.

2/21/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Geaux Irish said...

...we'll probably see even fewer quality opponents out of conference while the 18-games-plus-tournament rule remains.

I'm a Domer, and I love my Irish hoops teams, but ND's out of conference schedule this year was nothing to be proud of. For every Alabama that ND played there were 3-4 teams ranked in the 200's or 300's in RPI.

ND's OOC SOS is currently listed at 297, the second worst in the top 105 teams. And of those games, nearly all of them were at home.

2/22/2007 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous GraceAce said...

I must respectfully disagree.

First, conference tournaments are exciting for fans who follow a conference (strangely ND fans are in this group for basketball).
I like watching the big east tournament as I've follow them throughout the year and are familiar with their performance and their personnel.

Secondly, conference tournaments increase the excitement leading up to Selection Sunday. There are a lot of teams with mediocre credentials
Conference tournaments allow teams to separate themselves (in terms of making the tournament, or improving their seeding).

They also give teams one last chance. College basketball's postseason is very different from other postseasons, such as the NBA.
The large field (65 teams) of the postseason and the single elimination make it extremely unlikely that the best team wins.
This randomness and the urgency of each game gives rise to a certain culture, full of cinderellas, which is very much a part of college basketball that we enjoy.
I feel that the conference ournaments have a resonance with this culture; in some ways they are an extension of the tournament itself.

A few points from your post that I would like to address:

-- They render the regular season meaningless
The regular season is not meaningless. It is the basis for the at large bids and for the seeding

-- They [conference tournaments] promote unbalanced scheduling.
I don't believe that this is true. The Big East has made it's own mess here. They could have everyone play everyone else once to even out the schedule. They simply choose not to. I see no evidence that this choice is in any way related to the existence of a conference schedule.

Finally, I will say that teams that get an automatic bid by winning their conference tournaments do so not by virtue of 20 minutes, but by winning several games, usually going through the best teams of their conference.

BTW -- For anyone who's interested, GeauxIrish provided a link to Ken Pomeroy's site. This site is excellent. It has a wealth of stats and an excellent blog.


2/22/2007 05:10:00 PM  

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