Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seven Teams Will Make Big Sky Tournament Next Year

With North Dakota and Southern Utah joining the Big Sky next season, we knew there would be changes. There was already talk that the conference season would expand to 20 games, and now we have learned that the tournament will feature seven teams, rather than the six that make it now.

The top seed will still get a bye, and the tournament will still be played at their site, but the second seed will not longer automatically advance to the next round.

In the postseason tournament, the top seed will get a first-round bye in addition to hosting the tournament. The three first-round games will pit the No. 2 seed vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6, and No. 4 vs. No. 5. The top seed will face the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals, with the remaining two teams squaring off.
I like the new format, because I like rewarding the regular season champion. For a one bid league, it is much more beneficial to send your best team to the NCAA tournament (should get a better seed, more likely to pull an upset, etc), and this format it set up for the top seed. Not only will they now be the only team to get a bye (instead of the top 2 teams), but all three rounds will be played at their home gym on consecutive days.

That means that when they play their first game against a 4 or 5, they will have played the day before, rather than having a 2-3 day break, like the current format calls for. It also means that if they make the title game, they will be on their second game in two days, while their opponent will be on their third game in three days. That is huge.

One interesting tidbit from The Missoulian was that coaches were pushing for all 11 teams to make the tournament:

Tinkle said the coaches had pushed for a league tournament that involved all 11 teams.

"If you look around the country, it's an exciting time of the year where you get everybody at one location, all the teams you compete against all year long," Tinkle said. "You're there and it's a true championship. Maybe that's something they'll look at down the road once they see how the seven-team goes.

"I like that all three rounds now are going to be at one location because you get some of that feel. It'll feel like a real championship."
All teams making the tournament would have been really interesting, and hopefully is something that the conference will consider in the future. It would take away some of that aforementioned top seed advantage, but it would make for one exciting tournament.

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