The last time an Ivy League basketball team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament was in 1968, when three -time All-American Jim McMillian was a star for Columbia.
Anyone who thinks an Ivy postseason tournament will end this drought is optimistic, but wrong.
The Ivy League is the last of 32 Division I conferences not to have a tournament to determine who will earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The league is only one of a few to play a complete round robin, a home and away game against every team in the conference, every year. The winner of this format lands the automatic bid.
One of the primary benefits of a postseason tournament is that it assists many conferences in getting at-large bids. Frequently, the team that wins the regular season conference title loses the postseason tournament. And while the NCAA is required to admit the tournament champion, the selection committee frequently recognizes the accomplishments of regular-season champion as well.
However, since Ivy teams have not been good enough to garner a single at-large nod in the last 38 years, it is unlikely that the addition of a conference tournament is likely to change much.
Let's look at the 2005-2006 season as an example. The Quakers had a 12-2 record in the regular season, wheezing to the finish. Penn easily could have lost in a postseason conference tournament to teams like Columbia and Princeton, who beat them earlier in the season.
If, say, Princeton had won, then Penn would have been left to the mercy of the selection committee.
With a 19-9 record and a 98 Ratings Percentage Index score, the Quakers would have been left out of the Tournament and Princeton would have earned a 16-seed.
The Ivy League needs to look itself in the mirror, because if the issue is not at-large bids, then its reasons must be related to either fairness or money.
There are those who argue that the domination of Ivy League basketball by Princeton and Penn is unfortunate, even unfair. The last time one of the other six schools represented the league in the tournament was in 1988, when Cornell went.
But a postseason tournament created to give other programs a chance at glory cheats the players who won the round robin. Second, by sending in a team that may not have won the round robin, the league is potentially sending a team to the tournament to be slaughtered by the competition, an embarrassment to the school and the league.
The Ivy League is not a profitable athletic conference, so it would be hard to imagine that a postseason tournament would be designed as revenue-creating device. Even if it were, who would really be in attendance? A postseason tournament -
regardless of its location - would still draw Penn and Princeton fans. But surely it isn't the average home attendance of 929 fans at Brown or 1,890 fans at Cornell that we're shooting for.
The phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," is what comes to mind every time this issue arises. The Ivy League is unique: scholarships are not offered, academics come first and squash is no joke. The conference should not feel pressure to conform to national trends, because it doesn't have to. The best team should play in the NCAA tournament, and the round robin format is still the way to figure out who that is.
Matt Meltzer is a senior political science major from Glen Rock, N.J. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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