I may be the only person to say this, but I think the NCAA Tournament has lost its luster.
It's not that the NCAA tournament doesn't have its moments, but overall, it just doesn't pack the drama it used to. There is nothing that NCAA Tourney can do to improve it, and in fact it isn't a bad thing for college basketball. College basketball is still impacting as ever.
However, in my mind, the conference tournaments may have supplanted the NCAA Tournament in terms of keeping me glued to my couch. While on spring break, rarely did I ever keep the channel off of ESPN. And if it wasn't on ESPN, it was either on ESPN 2 or Fox Sports, where I was watching another conference tournament game.
NCAA Tournament week has the brackets and all the prestige, but in terms of sheer time consumption, nothing—and I mean nothing—beats conference tournaments. If I could take a vacation week, I would do it during conference tournament week rather than the NCAA Tournament weekend.
Here are four reasons why the conference tournament trumps the NCAA Tournament:
4. It's a whole day affair...for an entire week
The NCAA Tournament is a whole day affair as well...but only for four days. Not the case for conference tournament week. Every day there is a chock full of games from different conferences, be it the America East, MEAC, or Big East. And the games start early (usually around 9 a.m.) and end late (the Cuse-Uconn 6 OT affair didn't end until around 11 p.m. et). If you look at the schedule, there were a total of 138 games from Wednesday until Saturday. Granted, not all of them were televised, but that many games is simply a delight for any college basketball fan, especially when they are all crucial in terms of who is going to the postseason.
3. It's not just 65 teams that are important
In the NCAA tournament, it's all about those 65 teams. In the conference tournament, it's hundreds. It's about bubble teams looking to sneak in; it's about those mid-majors looking to clinch a tournament berth by winning their conference tournament; it's about those mediocre teams looking to steal a berth by somehow going on a run; it's about those teams who are shaking in their pants because a team won their tournament and got a berth when they shouldn't have. There is so much at stake, so many people involved. And besides, it seems like everyone has a chance during conference tournament, not just a handful like in the NCAA Tournament.
2. You see teams and leagues you normally wouldn't care or think about
-I got up early at 8 a.m. to watch the Binghamton-UMBC America East final. Normally, I wouldn't even follow an America East score on ESPN.com—let alone watch a game. However, because of what was on the line, and because it is a game you don't see on TV except during this time of the year, I sucked it up despite nursing a hangover from the previous night. That is one of the reasons why the NCAA tournament has lost its luster. It used to be a time where you could see teams you normally couldn't see. However, with ESPN showing all the conference tournament championships you get that luxury a week early, so if you're a college basketball fan, those teams aren't mysteries like they used to be. Believe me, I know more about American University more than most people would have maybe ten years ago when they pick their bracket come Sunday night.
1. There is always the unexpected
There's always a certain level of expectation with the NCAA Tournament. With the exception of George Mason in 2006, things always turn out like one thinks. The good teams advance, the lesser teams eventually fade away even if they do make a splash early on. In the conference tournament though, you see 15-16 teams run the table and win the conference tournament. You see games that last six overtimes and see that team play another overtime game the next night. Try to beat that with the NCAA tournament.