Should Mountain West Change Its Conference Tournament?
Perhaps a regular conference tournament is not a great idea
Trim down the tournament?
The Mountain West tournament is scheduled to go on as normal from March 10-13 with all 11 teams scheduled to participate. That is the plan but there is a growing number of support from college coaches from across the country to not host a conference tournament with the number being just over one in four.
There are good reasons to host and not host a tournament. Tradition is one reason as it allows for some magic if the eighth-ranked team goes on a run to win the title and secure the conference’s automatic NCAA berth.
Another reason to host a typical tournament is for television money that comes from the games which is much-needed money for the Mountain West and other conferences due to a shortfall in revenue from no NCAA Tournament last year and few if no fans in the stands.
In a pandemic year, perhaps conference tournaments should be tweaked. Teams actually have until Feb. 26 to decide how to determine their automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. All signs point to the Mountain West to go with its tournament winner to earn the automatic bid.
Within the Mountain West, Air Force’s Joe Scott is completely against trimming down the tournament.
“This year, with what we’ve had to do to play; that’s all everybody’s talked about all year, playing the games,” Scott said via the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Now at this juncture you’re going to say to a team you can’t play in your conference tournament? To me that goes against what everybody’s said all year up to this point. Obviously, I would be totally against it for this year.”
Scott makes a good point that the league wanted to play as many games as possible that same threshold should be used for the conference tournament.
The big question is if it is worth it?
Then there is Boise State head coach Leon Rice who said back in January that the league needs to be flexible.
“Right now it doesn’t feel like it would be very beneficial or very smart to take 11 teams to Vegas,” Rice said via Idaho Press. “There’s just a lot of reasons not to do it in the traditional sense. It doesn’t mean you don’t do it, but you figure out a different way that is going to work better than bringing 11 teams to Vegas.”
“I just can’t picture 11 teams in the hotels and doing what we do at the tournament and not exposing ourselves and now all of a sudden if you do all this work and your team comes down with COVID right before the NCAA tournament, that’s a hard thing to stomach and a hard thing to think about.”
The conference should be flexible and Rice’s point about having the conference tournament just days for the NCAA Tournament with all of these teams could cause some chaos if there is a COVID-19 outbreak from teams heading to the Big Dane.
We have a few ideas on how to make the conference tournament happen and keep it safer.
Currently, there is a big gap for the Mountain West top teams and the bottom teams and there is basically a four-team tier, but Nevada has an argument after sweeping Boise State.
For this argument, let’s for with four teams. A tournament with four teams would make it simple and easy to complete with No. 1 seed vs. 4, and then No. 2 vs. No. 3 and then a final. Fewer teams to possibly spread COVID-19 which is something to consider. The downside is that there are only two Mountain West games over the traditional 10 games.
With Nevada in the mix, what could be done is have a play-in game with No. 4 vs. 5 play and that winner takes on the top seed. This is four games so one more for television and the teams with an actual shot to win the whole thing are in this tournament.
This might be the best option for the conference. It allows the top teams to play meaningful contests and there are no duds in the field, so if an upset happens a bubble team doesn’t get to play a team with a poor NET rating.
In this round-robin scenario, it would allow each team to play three games against each other. Then the teams with the best records after those games play a title game on Saturday for the automatic bid. The tournament would still be four days with a pair of games for three days and then a title game for a total of seven games.
This would allow for maximum chances for more Q1 or Q2 games and help at-large chances. One other tweak could be to have the third- and fourth-place team for one more quality game.
Special New Mexico tournament
OK, we admit this is a long shot but it is weird so it is going in.
New Mexico is the one team that might not play in the tournament but they also say they want to finish the season and play series that are lost. This scenario was drawn up by our Andy Dieckhoff who wants to get the Lobos more games but also give them a unique path to the conference title game.
The dates would need to be amended as this proposal could last a few games. The gist of this set up is similar to the NBA playoff play-in games in which a team could play its way into the field.
New Mexico would play a two-game series against the missed teams of San Diego State and Colorado State. For the Lobos to advance to the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament they would need to sweep one of the two series.
For example, if they lose Game 1 of the first series, that one is done and the other continues and if the Lobos lose both Game 1s they go to the 11th seed of the tournament. However, if New Mexico wins both games of either series they go to the quarterfinals, but if they sweep both series and go 4-0, they go straight to the semifinals.
Yes, a longshot but it would make for a weird conference tournament, and who doesn’t want weird at this point?