Conference Tourneys Rule!

Rodd CaytonCorrespondent IMarch 14, 2009

Skip Bayless was on ESPN the other day, complaining about college basketball's conference tournaments.

He said that upsets such as Cleveland State's 57-54 win Tuesday over Butler, which had won the Horizon League's regular-season title, take at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament away from "deserving" teams. The Bulldogs are going to be in the tournament anyway, so in essence, the Horizon League now gets two bids.

Bayless' suggestion was to halt postseason conference tourneys.

That's crazy talk.

No deserving teams will be left out.

The MEAC is only getting one team into the Big Dance, whether it's Morgan State, the regular-season champ, or Maryland-Eastern Shore, which finished the regular season 7-22 (By the way, Morgan State and Norfolk State played Saturday night for the conference title and automatic bid).

You can figure that certainly, the top few teams in the power conferences will get NCAA invites.

Bayless is bemoaning the fate of such bubble teams as Florida, Maryland and San Diego State.

Those are the teams that should be winning.

Baylor (20-13) can't afford to let the NCAA Selection Committee decide its fate. The bears have known that for some time, and hit the Big XII tourney in Oklahoma City with the right frame of mind. If the Bears can beat Missouri Saturday night, they're in and someone else is out.

As it should be.

The thing that makes college basketball better than college football is that every team from Storrs, Conn. to Greenville, S.C. has a chance to win the national title. Or at least, be taken out of the title hunt by playing.

Conference tourneys are more than just an opportunity to confirm the regular-season pecking order. They also allow the teams to get together in the same location for a few days and celebrate.

I'd not take that away just so a sixth-place team from a big-money league doesn't have to sweat the A-10 or Horizon League outcome.

So, put me down as a supporter of conference tournaments.

However, I'd like to slag for just a minute on a disturbing trend that has popped up of late: this format, in which eight teams are invited, but it becomes a six-team bracket to get to the semis.

What's wrong with No. 1 versus No. 8 in the first round? If conferences want the No. 1 and 2 seeds automatically in the semifinals, they should just cap tourney participation at six. Or four. Or just do what Bayless wants and send the regular-season winner dancing.

I'll be back soon to talk about what the NCAA tournament should look like. I've got some March Madness to attend to.