The dictionary definition of the word antiquated is ‘old-fashioned or outdated’.
But in college basketball, it is a synonym for the Ivy League and the conference’s desperate adherence to “tradition.”
What tradition am I referring to? The lack of a conference tournament.
There will always be those who are staunch defenders of anti-tournament model for the Ancient Eight, but that’s exactly what it is: ancient.
Prior to the mid-2000s, the Ivy League essentially had an unofficial title game in place with the annual Penn-Princeton game to conclude the season. Inevitably, at least one of those two squads seemed to battle for the top spot in the conference with the Tigers and Quakers either winning or losing the conference by one game 25 times since the 1958-59 season, while clinching 39 combined outright Ivy titles.
But outside of those seasons where the Princeton-Penn game was relevant, the Ivy season ends with a thud, well before the nation’s other conferences play out their conference tournaments.
Therefore, while the Ancient Eight champion silently prepares for an unknown opponent, the rest of the country begins a boisterous march to the tournament, featuring buzzer-beaters, six-overtime thrillers and plenty of teams narrowly stealing bids to the all-important Big Dance.
That being said, the Ivy League is not a Power Five conference. It doesn’t pretend to be and nor should it. The Ivies aren’t even a high mid-major, never coming all that close to getting more than a single-bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Thus, with each conference receiving more money for more games played in the tournament, it stands to reason that the Ivies need to make sure they have their best team in the tournament.
Proponents of the no-tournament model say that the 14-game regular season acts as its own conference tournament, providing a larger sample size than a few head-to-head matchups in March can provide.
For example, Ivy women’s basketball had games late last season in which the team that finished last and second-to-last beat the teams that placed first and second. That would have eliminated the top two teams — Penn and Princeton — if that happened in a conference tournament.
But the model that many small mid-majors follow doesn’t let the bottom feeders into the conference tournament, only allowing the top four teams to compete for the postseason bid. That’s the conference tournament model that was proposed and rejected by Ivy athletic directors a few years ago and the one that would likely be implemented if there were ever an Ivy tournament.
Allowing the top four teams a chance at the crown would diversify your possible champions (does anyone really think a team besides Yale or Harvard has a very realistic chance this year?) while not diluting the Ivies chances at a NCAA Tournament win. Assuming you held games on home courts, you would still likely end up with one of the top two teams winning the conference, meaning you’ve given the rightful champion extra momentum.
And if the third or fourth seed won consecutive road games to take the title, it would likely mean that team is peaking at the right time and could be a better bet to pull off an upset a week later.
The conference tournament would also be another property the Ancient Eight would have that TV stations would bid on, resulting in more exposure than a TV deal with CBS Sports Network and the American Sports Network can provide. It may even help promote subscriptions to the League’s precious online property — the Ivy League Digital Network.
All of this is unlikely in the short term. But with Princeton and Penn finding new athletic directors in 2014 and Columbia looking to hire a new one as well, the tide may finally shift towards a tournament.
To paraphrase an old saying, out with the ancient, in with the new. It’s time for the Ivy League to make a step towards relevancy.Comments powered by Disqus
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