The Mountain West Conference announced Friday that its basketball tournament will continue its run at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas through 2019 and that it will include only the top eight teams starting in 2017.
The board of directors approved trimming the field based on a recommendation from its Competition, Ethics and Sportsmanship panel that went against the wishes of conference coaches.
“Similar approaches are being implemented in other MW championships based upon the best interests of those particular sports,” Commissioner Craig Thompson stated. “This most recent action will increase the importance of our regular-season basketball competition and is a vehicle to enhance the overall success of our basketball enterprise.”
While the move to cut the bottom three will enhance RPI ratings and NCAA Tournament prospects for the top-seeded teams, Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said it misses the point.
“To me, maybe you can look at it and try to rationalize that, I don’t rationalize that as a coach. I’ve been blessed to do this for 20 years and I think that’s what March Madness is all about,” Terry said.
“What if you say we’re not going to invite some teams to the (NCAA) Tournament? That it’s only going to be BCS schools? That’s what makes it March Madness. That’s why college basketball is what it is right now, why it’s different than any other collegiate sport. Football has a playoff system now, but that’s why college basketball is what it is. You want people to have those opportunities.”
Terry pointed to Connecticut in 2011 winning the Big East tournament as a No. 9 seed and going on to win the national championship. Every year, opportunity results in a tantalizing result in a conference tournament somewhere. The Bulldogs’ coach was an assistant at UNC-Wilmington in 2000 when the Seahawks won the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament as a No. 4 seed after going 8-8 in conference play and advanced to the NCAAs for the first time in school history.
“Some of those guys are 40 years old right now and it’s one of the best experiences of their lives,” he said. “We won the tournament. We made it to the NCAA Tournament. We had an OK year, not a great year, but we won the tournament. I look at it from the student-athletes’ perspective.”
FRESNO STATE VS. EVANSVILLE
- Sunday: 1 p.m. at Save Mart Center
- Records: Bulldogs 8-3, Purple Aces 9-2
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)