By the end of the regular season, college basketball’s pecking order of its best teams, regardless of conference affiliation, has been determined. Conference champions or co-champions, middle dwellers or bottom feeders have earned their respective distinction based on the successes or failures of the schedules played.
There’s more than enough information – power rankings, a body of work, won-lost record, strength of schedule, .500 or better in league play, the NCAA’s NET, Coaches’ and AP polls, basic optics – to help a committee decide which teams constitute the nation’s top 68 teams. It ain’t rocket science! So why, then, is it even necessary to have conference tournaments? The answer is “it’s not”. They merely amount to money grabs as part of the multi-billion dollar industry that is collegiate athletics.
My opinion is it’s well past time to do away with them. Reward success. Stop rewarding mediocrity or worse by awarding an unmerited spot in the ultimate tourney. Plenty of room for Cinderella to emerge and wear the upset city slipper would exist among the teams who have earned the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. Get rid of Championship Week and Championship Sunday. Don’t give the school that wins four games in 4 days a pass to The Dance when the school, the program doesn’t warrant the opportunity to begin with. That’s what keeps the Bubble Teams who should be in howling. Some has-been or never-should-have-been displace them as a Conference Tournament Champion. It’s absolutely indefensible to exclude the most deserving teams who’ve proven over a thirty-plus game schedule that they merit an invitation to one of the most exciting spectacles in all of sports.
Move Selection Sunday up a week and begin March Madness a week earlier as well. It’s a harebrained, imbecilic rationale - one that prioritizes greed, the love of money - to continue down a road that’s been disingenuous, unethical and sparked tons of debate over the years that NCAA sponsors, outrageous television contracts, broadcast rights and media outlets have poured ungodly sums of dollars into many a school’s coffers in general, coaches’ pockets and athletic department budgets, amounts that will surely continue to increase with the popularity of the sport and gambling, legalized or otherwise. And the players don’t get one nickel of the financial haul, but that’s a discussion we can table – for now!
The best way to diminish the importance of one’s regular season accomplishments is to continue playing pointless conference basketball tournaments sure to allow multiple season-long, substandard performers to punch their ticket to the Ball, an occurrence sure to raise the ire of players, coaching staffs, school administrations and student bodies robbed of the chance to justifiably represent their institution. It’s well past time to do away with these conference tournaments. In all fairness, the-sooner-the-better. However, the world in which we live doesn’t operate on that principle and won’t as long as the principal involved is a cash-driven money grab.