Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'm Done With the Conference-Tournament System

I'm not sure what the final straw was: I guess it was USC beating Arizona State.

USC had little chance of making the NCAA Tournament without winning the Pac-10 tournament. Arizona State was already an NCAA Tournament lock.

In the end, the Sun Devils had little or no incentive to actually win the Pac-10 Tournament. Pride, maybe. But pride isn't enough to counter desperation -- that's what USC brought.

If Arizona State was playing for its Tournament life, I suspect the result would have been different. Same thing with UNC vs. Florida State. Same thing with Wake vs. Maryland. Same thing with Oklahoma or Kansas or Texas or Xavier or Dayton... the list goes on.

More than anything else these past few days, what has been exposed is what a sham the "power conference" tournament structure is: NCAA "locks" have little reason to play to win -- NCAA Tournament seeding? Feh: Pitt will probably be a 1-seed anyway; same with UNC.

The point is: There is no way that the "lock" teams are playing their hardest -- or, at least, playing as hard as teams with a lot more to gain from the system. Plus: The experts seem to reward Bubble teams for wins over "name" teams in the conference tournament, even though these name teams aren't playing nearly as hard as they were in the regular season.

Look, I'm sure the top teams protest that they are trying their hardest -- but it simply doesn't hold water: You're telling me they care as much in an ultimately meaningless now as they will next week, when each game mean literally everything? No way.

-- D.S.


Unknown said...

I don't really understand why this bothers you so much. I agree that conference tourney wins are overvalue, but I have no problem with giving an auto-bid to the team that wins the tournament. First, because it's the only way (that I can think of) to get teams from 1-bid leagues in, and it doesn't make sense do have different rules for different leagues. Second, because what's the big deal, really? I mean, this year USC stole a bid from some bubble team, but they have just a good a chance of pulling an upset in the tourney than whatever team they took the bid from. And more likely, they'll lose in the first round. Georgia last year was worse, but their run through the SEC tourney was entertaining, then they promptly lost in the first round. No big deal.

Conference tournaments are a good (and entertaining) way to differentiate between bubble teams with similar resumes from the same conference. And rarely do teams from major conferences that have to win the tournament to get a bid actually do it, even if the locks aren't trying their hardest (which I'm not sure I totally buy, but there's something to it).

That was a bit rambling, but the point is this: calm down.

mirthywvu said...

I don't see how this is any different than the end of an NFL season or any other sport.(except college football of course) When a team already has secured home field advantage, etc, they are going to rest players while potentially playing "bubble" playoff teams. Is that fair? This is the case in just about every sport towards the end of a season, when players are rested, etc.

Michael W said...

I disagree that Arizona State had no motivation. ASU has never won the Pac-10 tournament. Never. Neither had USC. There's a lot of pride at stake for something like that.

Now, you could argue that Washington and UCLA had nothing to play for which is why the championship in the first place was ASU/USC, but the game itself was a worthy game.