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March Madness’ Seamy Side

Posted By Steven Keys On Mar 10 2012 @ 12:48 am In Northwestern | 2 Comments

There’s the good “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” March Madness: that’s the quality play, the buzzer beaters, Mr. Vitale, Cinderella stories, Selection Sunday. And there’s the bad, the King George III Madness: the superfluous post-season conference tournaments.

Call it the seamy side of March Madness. The time when love for the game gets bounced outta’ the gym and love of money slithers into its place.

The long, hard-fought regular season has come to a close with the crowning of conference champions and the NCAA’s Big Dance is just around the corner.

But rather than give that champ the automatic NCAA bid and student-athletes time to re-charge their batteries and catch-up on studies, weary players must then gear up for a pre-NCAA, largely meaningless conference tourney to add more mintage to college coffers.

These young men & women, who’ve played near thirty games and will be facing league rivals for a third time, can only view their post-season tournament with the same loathing they do a visit to the student dental clinic.

And if you think the season-ending conference tourney is a good thing because it gives your off-the-bubble school its only chance at getting an NCAA bid, keep in mind, next year your team may be ON-that-bubble, favored for an at-large invite but then stumble in said tourney and lose out (Northwestern).

The fact these PS conference tournaments hold a carrot on the end of the stick in the form of an automatic NCAA bid makes them no less a money grab. Strengthening that view is the fact that any claim a conference tourney winner has on that bid will always be lesser than that of the regular season conference champ who senselessly gets no such invite (Washington).

But the voice of reason is beginning to resonate.

On his Thursday radio show, Colin Cowherd touched on the subject of PS conference tournaments as he spoke with the accomplished men’s head basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, Roy Williams.

Cowherd began with a quote from another top-tier coach in Kentucky’s John Calipari: “We don’t play this (conference) tournament to win it, were playing this tournament to either hold our seed or improve our seed. I tell the team I can’t stand this.”

Roy responded: “There’s no question it’s lost (ACC Tourney), all of the tournaments…lost its significance it used to have and, you know, even the players themselves say, ‘Why we gotta’ do this all over again? We’ve just been doing this the last eight weeks (The Herd with Colin Cowherd / ESPN Radio / 3-8).’”

Post season conference tournaments were born in a time when NCAA and NIT bids were not the be-all and end-all of the basketball season. Times have changed and with it the rational, basketball-basis for holding such events. But the men & women who’ve taken a wrecking-ball to traditional conference line-ups, destroyed regional rivalries and turned beloved team logos over to executives at Nike & Reebok don‘t think in sporting terms.

It’s time to stop the money Madness, end the post-season conference tournaments, return the automatic bid to the regular-season champions and give the players & coaches a much deserved break. They’ve earned it.

Ahead of the Curve

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