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Should the Summit League Tournament, Other One-Bid Tournaments Be Overhauled?

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There’s no denying that South Dakota State is back in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in six years.

But the path the fourth-seeded Jackrabbits took to capturing the automatic bid that comes with winning the 2017 Summit League Tournament might be much more difficult to navigate in the years to come if one national sportswriter has his way. reporter Gary Parrish says the time has come to do a better job of ensuring that conference regular season champs advance to the ‘Big Dance’, not teams that pull off a couple of upsets in a conference tournament.

Keep in mind – only one of SDSU’s five trips to the NCAA Tournament has come as the number one seed in the Summit League Tournament (in 2013).

Currently, 32 conferences automatically send tournament winners into the NCAA field of 64 teams. The Summit League, and a dozen or so mid-majors like them, traditionally get only one team in the bracket each year.

In his story, ‘This plan to fix one-bid conference tourneys might be radical, but it’s also logical’, Parrish writes:

Conference tournaments — especially the ones connected to traditional one-bid leagues — are indeed little more than cash-grabs designed to create television exposure and excitement at the expense of the regular season. The losers are the teams that spend months proving they’re the best in their leagues only to be upset in conference tournaments and left with nothing that matters.

Despite our love for Summit League basketball in these parts, and the remarkable run of nine years of Summit League Tournament excitement in Sioux Falls, it’s hard to argue with Parrish’s logic.

A one-bid conference champ has never made it to the Final Four in the history of the NCAA Tournament, and it’s highly unlikely they ever will.

Parrish believes the regular season winner, not the conference tournament champ, should be the representative in the NCAA Tournament. That will also never happen because of the incredible amounts of money conference tournaments generate through television revenue.

So what is Parrish’s plan to keep the tournaments in place, while tilting the scales in favor of the regular season champs?

Give those teams a bye all the way to the conference championship game.

Let’s take the 2017 Summit League for example:

South Dakota won the regular season outright with a 12-4 record. Under Parrish’s plan, the Coyotes would sit back until championship night, while the other eight teams in the conference battle in a traditional seeded bracket for the the right to play them.

That would certainly give the well-rested champs quite the upper hand. But, as they say in the world of TV informercials – wait – there’s more!

Parrish has one more wrinkle he wants to throw in once we get to the title game, to give that regular season champ an even bigger advantage – give them a 10-0 lead to start the game:

What it would do is, obviously, make an upset less likely, which would in turn make it more likely that a league’s best team would represent it in the NCAA Tournament. But, again, an upset would still be possible. My plan would still allow dreamers to dream. And if you end up as a No. 1 seed who couldn’t hold a 10-point lead against an inferior team in the title game, well, that’s on you. We tried our best to set you up for success. You blew it. Live with it.

Again, I get where Parrish is coming from, but let’s stop kidding ourselves. Whether it’s the NCAA Tournament, BCS, Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, or Stanley Cup Finals, it’s never about crowning the best team, it’s about the hottest team during that month long stretch of the post season.

If we really want to reward excellence, then do away with divisions, conferences, playoffs, and tournaments and just hand a trophy and sprinkle some confetti on the team with the best record at the end of the season.


As for me, I’ll gladly stick with the flawed, yet entertaining way we crown our ‘champions’ now.

I have a feeling a lot of you are with me…

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