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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Great Debate: Pizza

By Tony Pizza

As hard as it might be, try to imagine what you’ll be doing next week. Even if you’re not a diehard sports fan, you will likely spend some time filling out one of those lovely little NCAA brackets.

Now imagine not having the God-given right to be tempted to advance a team like Bucknell, instead of UConn, into the second round of your bracket. Imagine not being able to at least have the right to choose Tennessee Chattanooga to beat Michigan or Winthrop to upset Kansas. It doesn’t seem American, right? Well, it isn’t.

As Americans, we love seeing teams like George Mason beat college basketball giants like Michigan State, North Carolina and Connecticut. We love having the opportunity of penciling in teams like Weber State and Cleveland State in the next round of the NCAA tournament, but that opportunity would significantly dwindle if we got rid of conference tournaments.

Conference tournaments guarantee the integrity of the NCAA because most of the time they insure that the best team in the conference — at the time — gets a chance to represent their conference in the NCAA tournament.

Here is where naysayers will start spouting off, “Just look at the Mountain West, UNLV gets to extend its March Madness dreams every year the MWC tournament is held in Las Vegas.” True. But if Utah or BYU isn’t good enough to beat a 14-16 Runnin’ Rebel team, or if they’re not good enough to get into the Big Dance on their own, what gives them the right to play in the NCAA Tournament, anyway?

People who hate conference tournaments will point at the fact that you could just allow the regular season champions an automatic bid.

Let’s pretend for one minute that Old Dominion of the Colonial Athletic Association wins 15 of its first 18 games, but then has two players injured and hobbles through its final seven games only winning two against the conference’s toilet-bowl teams. Meanwhile, Delaware got off to a slow start for the season — especially when it played in the Maui Invitational and lost its star player, Miles Malarkey, for four weeks. Malarkey gets back, and the Fightin’ Blue Hens make a run at Old Dominion by winning seven of their last eight only to fall one game short of the Monarchs in the standings. Not only that, but also four Old Dominion players get suspended at a party involving vodka, PCP and a couple hired “ladies of the night.” Unfortunately, Old Dominion is pretty much a crippled version of itself and gets blown out by Wichita State 104-22.

In reality, Old Dominion’s cover for a paper champion would have been exposed in the conference tournament, and Delaware would have gone on to represent the conference nicely.

Plus, what do you do for conference ties? Make both teams play each other one last time or resort to some stupid tiebreaker?

Are these examples a bit extreme? Possibly. But they substantiate one important reason for conference tournaments. The best team out of the conference tournament usually gets to the NCAA Tournament, and if usually good teams couldn’t get through their own conference tournaments, what good would they have been in the national tournament?

But what about all those bubble teams that get screwed over worse than the Utah Jazz when Kobe Bryant is on the floor? Guess what? Teams are always going to feel the wrath of getting snubbed. But without conference tournaments, guess who ends up feeling the brunt of those shafts? Yep, the little guys.

Teams from the big conferences already average five teams every time tourney time rolls around. Teams from conferences like the American East and the Metro Atlantic Athletic typically only get one, unless one of those conferences has a top-25 team that doesn’t win the conference tournament anyways.

So what if that happens? Then a team like Youngstown State or Longwood gets the chance of a lifetime to play in the NCAA Tournament and a 19-12 Iowa team has to wait till next year to try and be one of the five Big 10 teams to make it to the NCAA Tournament.

This is America and the phrase “the land of opportunity” applies to college basketball, too. There are always going to be teams left out, but with conference tournaments in place, more teams have a better chance of finally getting to dance — and that is what causes America to become crazed with March Madness.

It lets us cheer for the underdog; it lets us root for teams like Marshall and Utah to beat teams like Kentucky and Duke, and it’s the greatest sporting event in the world. I also believe in letting smarter men than I say things better, so I’ll leave you with the phrase, “Don’t mess with a good thing” and hope that the underdog always gets the chance with a conference tournament system in place.

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