New women’s MWC rule bad for business

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

Yikes! Have you seen the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball tournament bracket?

In a herky-jerky system analogous to the muttonheadedness of the Bowl Championship Series, No. 1 seed Utah and No. 2 seed San Diego State have byes until the semi-final round. With the first-round games completed8212;where No. 4 New Mexico beat No. 9 Air Force, No. 8 Colorado State beat No. 5 Wyoming and No. 7 UNLV beat No. 5 BYU8212;Utah will await the winner of the New Mexico-Colorado State game, and San Diego State will play either UNLV or No. 3-seeded TCU, which has a bye to the quarterfinals.

The new bracket has been referred to as the “Elaine Elliott rule” after Utah was dispatched in the first round of the 2008 MWC tournament by Colorado State, which was winless in conference play until then. The bracket now allows the top two seeds to automatically advance to the semifinals, which “intuitively” was done to help eliminate the stigma of a first-round loss. Now, to be fair to Elliott’s good name, the idea was introduced and voted on by all nine MWC coaches and some university athletic directors. It passed, meaning Elliott wasn’t the only one who wanted this rule, but it’s obviously a ploy to help the MWC get better seeds in the NCAA Tournament. It also carries the dual effect of helping those teams perform better by allowing them to be less tired when the Big Dance comes.

First off, advancing your top two seeds to the semifinals doesn’t necessarily decrease the stigma of a loss in either team’s first conference tournament game, if such an occurrence happens. Right now, Colorado State is still in line to play Utah again, and a loss would not be any less demoralizing this time around.

The fishiness also brings into question the legitimacy of the conference in the first place. To me, this change to the tournament is the equivalent of the MWC saying, “We’re not a good enough conference to get into the BCS title game unless we go undefeated, so the preseason No. 1 team, you go ahead and play all home games against all MWC opponents next year.”

The point is, the MWC isn’t fooling the important people. Sure, a few of The Associated Press voters might not be hip to the fact that the MWC women’s bracket has this funky new twist, but the committee members of the NCAA tournament sure as hell do. They might be obligated to invite the MWC champion, but how legit is the runner-up team, especially if it only had to play two games?

The other problem is this: A conference tournament furthers a team’s résumé. When it comes down to it, 22 wins looks a lot better than 20, at least superficially. Going through a conference tournament gauntlet, instead of an MWC mockery, adds stock to that résumé. If you can’t get past a previously winless team, maybe that should be used as a learning experience rather than an exercise in one’s campaigning and debating expertise.

I’m a huge women’s basketball advocate, but it’s not like the sport needed another reason to have its legitimacy questioned.

Vote to change things back to the way they were. This decision wasn’t revolutionary, just ridiculous. Kind of like my new mug shot.

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