Second chances are hard to come by and almost impossible in a competitive field, but each year, as March rolls around, a second chance is what every NCAA basketball team gets.
Conference tournaments are the undercard to the NCAA Tournament but provide just as much excitement as their highly publicized counterpart. More importantly, they give every team one last chance to dream big, as the winner of these tournaments earn an automatic bid to play in the Big Dance.
Since the Big Ten (1998) and Pac-10 (2002) conferences voted to reinstate their tournaments at the end of the regular season, the drama of March has been raised to new levels. The Ivy League remains the only conference that does not enjoy the thrilling week of a conference tournament.
Over the past weeks we have been bombarded with the proverbial bubble talk regarding what teams should make the NCAA Tournament. On Selection Sunday we will find our answers but whatever the case, there will be teams left out.
The great UCLA legend John Wooden says the NCAA should change their rules and expand the field to include every Division I team. I hate to disagree with Mr. Wooden, but the NCAA already has that system in place, it’s called conference tournaments.
Going into the 2008 SEC Tournament the Georgia Bulldogs were having a horrible season. They had a record of 13-16 and an anemic 4-12 record in conference play. But then something special happened, the Bulldogs suddenly played like one of the best teams in the nation and won their conference tournament and the automatic invite to the Big Dance.
One week of thrilling and exciting basketball turned a season of doom into one that will always be remembered.
In 2006 the defending Big East Champion Syracuse Orangemen were staring the NIT in the face. The Orangemen were unable to live up to lofty expectations during the regular season and finished 7-9 in conference play.
Syracuse needed to have a strong Big East Tournament to salvage their season and that is exactly what they did. Led by tournament MVP Gerry McNamara, Syracuse secured the automatic bid from the Big East Conference.
The parity in college basketball makes the upcoming two weeks even more intriguing. There is so little separation between teams that literally anyone can get hot and win their tournament.
While this confusion leads to headaches for prognosticators and gamblers, it leads to passion and excitement to basketball purists who love to root for the underdog that still has life in their dream to dance in March.