In a recent survey conducted by CBS Sports, 41 Division 1 head coaches were asked the question: Should your league stage a conference tournament this season? 27% of the coaches surveyed answered no, and 73% said yes.
Conference tournaments are a staple of college basketball. They give every college hoops program in each conference a glimmer of hope of punching their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Although major tournaments often distribute byes to the teams finishing near the top in the regular season, conference tourneys at least give every team and fanbase hope of automatically clinching a spot in the field of 68.
Conference tournaments are a major part of what makes college basketball as entertaining as it is. Year after year, teams who finished near the middle or bottom of their respective conferences get hot and steal a bid, effectively pushing everyone on the “Last Four In” list down a spot and increasing the anxiety for those fanbases heading into Selection Sunday.
College basketball super-fans will tell you that college football could never compare due to the lack of parity. Each year in college football, there are anywhere between 3 and 8 teams that legitimately could win the national title. In college basketball, anything can happen. A few years ago, UMBC became the first 16 seed to beat a 1 seed in the opening round, when they stunned the number 1 overall seed Virginia Cavaliers. In the last 35 years, 1 seeds have gone on to win the title 19 times. Each seed, 1-8, except for the cursed 5 seed, has managed to win a national championship in the last 35 years.
Conference tournaments give every team a chance to heat up and gain momentum heading into the big dance. In a year where teams have faced adversity through postponements, cancellations, and players missing games due to COVID and/or contact tracing, it is shocking that more than a quarter of these coaches do not think conference tournaments should be held this year.
Blue bloods like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State, and Syracuse are all in serious jeopardy of missing the tournament, and conference tournament performances will be detrimental in seeding teams in this unconventional college hoops season.
They call it March Madness for a reason.