Gotta Love Conference Tournaments
Come mid-March in the NBA and late July in baseball, importance and meaning in games dips to an unnecessary low. Sure, games still count as much as they did at the beginning of the year, but by 3/5ths of the way through any season, divisions start to take shape. The Angels pull ahead in the West, the Royals go from 4th to 5th in the AL Central, and the once jump-started Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies of the league start to fizzle toward the bottom of their conferences. Fortunately, the College Basketball Conference Tournaments condense seasons into one the most competitive and entertaining weeks in sports.
In the Big East Conference Tournament, fans pack Madison Square Garden to watch the Gerry McNamaras of the world carry their 10th seeded teams to the title game on pure heart and determination. Rivalries are taken to a new level as team’s match up for the third time. Emotions run high, and fans are given a reason to cheer. Mediocre teams are given a reason to play hard all season long, even when they only have 5-7 conference records in February.
For mid-major teams a conference tournament is like a mini-March Madness. A season is compressed into a win or go home format, and excitement and player determination is higher than in any other part of the season. I mean let’s be honest, how much excitement can you build up if you were to crown a conference champion based on regular season wins and losses? Where’s the hype? Where’s the Cinderella story? Where’s the number two team getting the chance to square off against the favored number one? Where’s the sense of urgency?
The NBA is struggling to find a way to make teams like the Knicks and Timberwolves play hard all season long. But can you blame the players? I wouldn’t be closing out on the defense when my team is 20 games out of 8th place.
ESPN writer John Hollinger has proposed a NBA playoff system where the 8th through 14th place teams in each conference would be thrown in a bracket and the winner would take the 8th seed.
Although it might be a little ridiculous to include the words, “Golden State Warriors and playoffs” in the same sentence, this format would be a significant step forward.
College Basketball Conference tournaments have put meaning into a normally boring college basketball conference season. Excitement is compounded, rivalries are heightened, and meaning is restored.
It’s time for other competitive sports markets to notice the superiority in the College Basketball Conference Tournaments and for once maybe we can actually care about the NBA before June.
Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew, made up of Ari Zyskind, Ned Schooler, Nathan Barnett, Dan Campbell, and Kevin Shuai, a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio talk show on KSPC. You can listen in online at KSPC.org (click “Hear us Online via Live365”) every Monday from 8-10 PM.
N.B.: The Nightcap is holding it's very own, free, March Madness Pool. The winner will receive a collector's item: a custom made, Nightcap t-shirt signed by the whole crew in addition to a 90 second, uninterrupted, rant on the show. If you are interested, e-mail Ari Zyskind at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nathan Barnett email@example.com requesting an invitation to the pool.