by STEVEN GEHEGAN//Sports Editor
With the biggest tournament in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I college basketball ongoing, each conference should send its best programs, not those that happen to win a conference’s post-season tournament.
When you use a post-season conference tournament to decide who the automatic bid should go to, this creates several problems that mostly affect smaller schools and conferences. First is the fact that those tournaments can devalue the regular season. This has more affect on smaller conferences, since most fans, like myself, like to watch the games that pit the power conferences against each other, or the major conference that people choose to follow.
These tournaments devalue the regular season for teams in a conference that has only one bid to get into the National Tournament. While this way may seem more entertaining to some, what is the point of the regular season? Why would anyone watch their regular season, or, for that matter, why even play the regular season if the only way to get the bid is to win the conference tournament? If you want the casual fan to start watching these small colleges play, then you are going to have to give them a reason to tune in during the middle of the season.
Another problem with the conference tournaments is the fact that the best team does not always represent the conference. While this may not seem like a major problem to some, it is to those conferences that those colleges represent. If a college wins its conference by multiple games, then it would make sense for that conference to send that school that won the regular-season conference tournament, than that team has an even smaller chance of knocking off a higher seed.
The better the team that makes the NCAA tournament, the better chance that conference or that college will benefit from it, such as the case several years ago when Wichita State University and Creighton University had success in post-season play for the Missouri Valley Conference. This caused the tourney selection committee to take that conference more seriously, and this helped a traditionally one-bid conference to get another one. Then these smaller colleges can get better recruits and even have the programs getting good enough to get into a power conference school, as Creighton did moving from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East Conference.
There are a lot of good smaller college teams that do not get a chance to get into the big tournament every year because of these useless conference tournaments. I do not believe in getting rid of them. I believe that non-power conferences should take a cue from what the Ivy League Conference used to do, which is give the automatic bid to the team that won the conference in the regular season.
If these non-power conference colleges want to gain more attention, then they need to give automatic bids to the conference’s best team, not the team that won the conference tournament.