Calder Silcox | No tourney is the way to go

· April 18, 2012, 10:27 pm   ·  Updated April 23, 2012, 12:11 am

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Ellen Frierson | DP

The Ivy League basketball coaches are proposing a four-team conference tournament to determine the league’s NCAA Tournament representative. If that happens, late-season games like Yale versus Penn would be meaningless.


Every few years someone comes to the DP’s executive board with a hot new idea to make some money. This is the newspaper industry after all, so the exec board is all ears.

The idea, whatever it may be, gets put through the ringer. We debate it endlessly, run cost/benefit analyses, examine its feasibility. It could be months before we finally make a decision. And nine times out of ten, we bail out, unsure of heading into uncharted territory.

At the Ivy League’s spring meetings in early May, the basketball coaches will come to the eight athletic directors with their own hot new idea — well, definitely hot, but not so new. The coaches are proposing a four-team conference tournament to decide the Ancient Eight’s representative in the NCAA tournament.

But like a 127-year old student newspaper, the league will ultimately prove too resistant to change. The proposed tournament won’t — and should not — become a reality.

Currently, the Ivy is the only league without a tournament whose automatic bid is given to the regular season champion. It’s just the way things have always been, as many things in the Ancient Eight are.

The benefits of joining the status quo are, on first glance, appealing. A conference tournament could generate buzz and be a valuable television deal (that is, if the league can ever actually ink one). It would give the eventual winner a little tournament-play experience heading into the big dance. It would bring much needed commerce to New Haven or whatever “neutral site” hosts the event.

But a postseason tournament would have problems as well. Primarily, with mid-major programs like the Ivies, the league needs its best representative in the NCAA tournament. A single-elimination tournament makes this less likely.

Harvard was by all accounts the strongest team in the conference last year, with the best shot at a first-round win in the NCAAs. Imagine if 9-5 Yale made a run through the Ivy tournament — the Bulldogs would never have been a 12-seed, and would have gotten pounded in the first round.

Should the Ivy get a second bid to the NCAA tournament, an Ivy tourney may make more sense. But this year, which was one of the best for the league in decades, produced one bid as always.

The tournament would also likely eat a non-conference game from each team’s schedule. For teams like Penn that play quality teams before the Ivy season to strengthen their own play, this would be a detriment as well.

The last four years have shown the upheaval going on in the Ivy. Cornell established a dynasty for three years, and Harvard has risen out of obscurity to build it’s own powerhouse.

The Ivy League is changing. The quality of its constituents is on the upswing and more talented players are choosing the Ivy than have in recent memory. This season had four teams in contention going into the final weekend — why make those games meaningless?

Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky commented earlier this week that he would likely stand in opposition of the proposed tournament. No other Penn basketball players or staff were made available to comment on their stance. Surprisingly, Bilsky tacked onto his statement the following:

“Frankly, I would rather have the League place a greater priority on finding a way for our football programs to play in postseason competition.”

In previous interviews, he has always been non-committal about football playoffs. It’s refreshing to see Bilsky, usually an Ivy League traditionalist, take a progressive stance on something. If only the rest of the league could get its priorities straight.

Unfortunately the league’s inertia means the football playoffs will likely never happen. Hopefully the same is true for Ivy hoops.

CALDER SILCOX is a senior science, technology and society major from Washington, D.C., and is a former Senior Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.

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