Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's already March, where's the Madness?

With Conference tourney's revving up and the NCAA Tournament right around the corner we've hit the part of the season where the debating starts. We'll argue who's in, who's out, strength of schedule, quality wins, etc. But have the conferences gotten too big? The ACC is 12 teams, the BIG East 16, and Atlantic 10 with 14? Does the large amount of teams per conference muddy the waters when not every team plays home and away games at each of there conference opponent?

A classic example is Louisville. Louisville, though very good has had one of the easiest Big East schedules all year. They played all the Big East teams once and had home games against Notre Dame, Pitt, UConn, and Marquette. All of these teams were ranked in the top 13 when the Cardinals played them. They only had to play at Syracuse and Villanova in a conferernce that is arguably the best in college basketball.

Maryland on the other hand is a team that is exact opposite coming out of a strong ACC that has had three different teams hold the #1 spot in the polls at some point this year. Maryland Duke and UNC twice, at Florida State and at Clemson, while having only Wake as the other home game vs a ranked opponent.

Now, I'm not making a case for Maryland and against Louisville, but I do find it interesting how the conference schedules have broken down over the past few years as we've seen an influx in the amount of teams in the elite conferences. When you stop playing teams in your conference twice a year, once at home and once on the road, the integrity of the tournament comes into question. What was once a fair way in deciding who belonged and who didn't from these major conferences has become a debate because of the saturated conference structure.

To truly have a fair regular that is uncompromised by the dilution of teams in the major conferences we need to have either less non-conference games which would allow for teams to have both home and away games against each team. Or we need to put a cap on the amount of teams allowed per conference so that we can still allow for some non-conference matchups as well as all the in-conference home and away battles that have become a part of the college basketball landscape.

Either way something needs to happen because aside from a screwed up conference setup, the NCAA Basketball committee has it right when it comes to deciding a National Champion. The NCAA Tournament is still the premier way to decide who the best of the best is.

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