Big East Weekly

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee should meet the last weekend of the regular season to determine who's in the field. It should meet again the following weekend to adjust the field for conference tournament upsets and finalize seeding.

Why should the selection committee be meeting now? Because your conference's tournament results should not affect the number of tournament bids my conference gets, and because there should never be a financial incentive for a team to lose.

By determining the field now, the number of teams each conference deserves would be set. That number should not change if a team not in the field wins its conference tournament. A conference should be free to decide which member gets its automatic bid however it wants; but a surprise conference tournament winner should knock one of its conference brethren out of the NCAA Tournament. It makes no sense to keep a MAC or CUSA team out of the tournament because the Big East or the Big Ten is giving its automatic bid to a poor team.

It makes even less sense to provide a financial incentive to lose. Let me explain.

For the sake of argument, assume that the Big East would get seven bids if the field were selected today – Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Marquette, and Villanova. Then assume that DePaul, a good team capable of having a nice run against good competition, wins its first three conference tournament games and is set to face Pittsburgh in the championship game. Pittsburgh will make the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome of the championship game. DePaul won't go unless it wins.

Conference teams share NCAA Tournament revenue. If DePaul wins and gets an eighth NCAA bid for the Big East, Pittsburgh will get an additional share of NCAA Tournament money. Therefore, there is financial incentive for Pittsburgh to lose. Is the financial incentive substantial? Probably not enough to create suspicion, even for schools like Georgetown and St. John's that have fairly small budgets for athletics. Has there ever been reason to think a team has tanked for the money? Not to my knowledge. Is this a secondary issue compared to the unfairness of knocking mid-major conference teams out of the tournament because of major conference tournament upsets? Yes, but it's still wrong. There should never be incentive to lose in sports.

Conference tournaments cause adjustments to the NCAA field every year. I object to how the field is adjusted in many cases. It's an easy problem to fix. Come on, NCAA. We shouldn't have to count on blind squirrel theory.

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