VETTEL: Why I hate conference hoops tournaments

What is it about intercollegiate athletics that makes administrators do bizarre things in the post-season? In division one college football, it is a goofy system of side deals and integrity sales that evolved into the BCS. In basketball it is the annual money grab also known as the conference tournament.

I Hate Conference Basketball Tournaments

League tournaments select a conference's representative for the NCAA Tournament. But they let everyone participate. Thus you have Oakland at 12-and-18 in the NCAA's, screwing a far more deserving team out of a berth. There are three major flaws with what is accomplished during conference tournaments.

Tons Of Missed Classes

The powers that be love to hide behind empty platitudes and gestures when it comes to academics. But this week every SEC basketball player will miss at least one day of school and at least two-thirds of them will miss two. If you figure 12 players to a squad a normal SEC week results in 72 players missing one day of classes. However for the SEC Tournament, 144 players will miss one day, and 96 of them will miss two.

That means to satisfy the hunger for cash in the front office, 240 student-days of class will be sacrificed, or roughly three times a normal week.

Excessive Physical Demands

During the regular season teams don't play two days in a row unless they choose to do so in a Holiday Tournament. Most of the time they have two or three complete days to recuperate from competitions.

In the NCAA Tournament, they get one full day between games, at least three between "stages".

Yet in the SEC Tournament, a school may be asked to play four games in about 65 hours! The teams in the tournament championship game will be playing for the third time in less than 48 hours no matter what.

Automatic Bids Rewards The Wrong Thing

Earning a spot in the National Championship Tournament is supposed to be a reflection of a team's season and accomplishments. That's the case in every sport… heck even with college football's screwed up system there is a minimum win total to get a bowl bid. Yet college basketball continues to operate a system in which horrible teams can snag a spot in the field of 65, even though it is at the expense of a conference rival that has had a far superior season.

A great weekend should not be enough to overcome a good four months.

A Compromise Proposal

Let's make the SEC and other conference tournaments special by reducing the field. If you had a six-team even you could still have doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday with a title game on Sunday. Nobody has to miss class on Thursday. Give the division winners a bye… #2 in the East plays # 3 in the west and so on. You could still have a team playing three games in three days, but it's progress.

Frankly, I'd do away with all conference tournaments and give schools 30 games a year, period. Play in Alaska, Hawaii or Beirut if you wish, but you get 30 games. That equalizes scheduling for determining at-large bids and would create more intersectional play.

Give the automatic bid back to the regular season champion and restore some integrity to the regular season.

ALL-SEC Hoops Teams Right On

It's not often the All-Conference teams are announced with virtually no argument, but it appears the A.P. and coaches both pretty much nailed it this year. The Associated Press first-team included the often overlooked and under-appreciated Chuck Hayes of Kentucky. Even though that cost David Lee a spot on the first team, it was the right move. The rest of the unit, Brandon Bass, Lawrence Roberts, Anthony Roberson and Kennedy Winston were exactly correct.

As for the coaches, they have an eight-man first team, which added Lee, Alabama's Earnest Shelton and Ronnie Brewer of Arkansas. I agree with Lee and Brewer but I'd put Kentucky guard Kelenna Azubuike on there ahead of Shelton. Azubuike comes up a bit short by the numbers, but Kentucky's depth has more to do with that than Shelton's skill. Azubuike is the second-best player on the SEC Champs and that's more impressive than being the third-best player one of the three teams tied for second overall.

Congrats to Corey Brewer for being on the All-Freshman team, but where is Al Horford? For Horford to be in the top ten in the SEC in rebounding and top five in blocked shots and not make this group is absurd. Sorry Shan Foster, you did a nice job for Vandy… but you gotta make room for big Al.

Former Gators Headed To Big Dance

Two players who began their careers in Orange and Blue will be taking part in this year's NCAA Tournament. Orien Greene, a fifth-year senior at Louisiana-Lafayette scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Ragin Cajuns' win over Denver in the Sun Belt Tournament final. On the year the former Gainesville High School star is averaging just under 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals a game.

Meanwhile, Greene's teammate on the 2002 Gators, James White is headed to post-season at the University of Cincinnati. White, who has one year of eligibility remaining, averages 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds for the 24-and-6 Bearcats. Like Greene, White posted a double-double his last time out with 11 points and rebounds… including the game-winning hoop with 16.2 seconds to play in a 62-60 win over Memphis.

Wouldn't it be something if the Gators faced one, or both in the tournament?

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