MWC To Limit Baseball Tournament to Four Teams in 2016
It hasn't been announced yet but it looks more than possible and I think it's a step in the right direction.
Let's take a look at the history of the tournament. In 2015 Nevada was rated #29 going into the tournament and was the regular season champion. That turned out to be a case of the big so what as they were eliminated before entering the championship bracket. The Wolf Pack received no automatic bid and no at-large bid. San Diego State won the tournament and got the bid. The Aztecs were the regular season runner up and were three games out so, not that unfair.
Let's go to 2014. That year New Mexico and UNLV tied for the regular season championship and San Diego State again won the automatic bid after ending up third during the regular season. New Mexico lost both games in the MWC Tournament and received no bid. UNLV made it to the championship round in the MWC tournament and played SDSU in three games to decide which team would receive the automatic bid. The Rebels, along with SDSU, received Regional bids. That's only partially fair, in my book, because the third place team made it and only one of the co-champions received an at-large bid. New Mexico is broken hearted.
In 2013 New Mexico was the clear champion in the regular season finishing seven games up on second place UNLV and received an at-large bid to a regional. UNLV received nothing and SDSU again received the auto bid as they beat New Mexico in the MWC tournament for the championship. This from a team that finished 10 games out and an overall 31-31 on the season. Which team got screwed here? In my estimation, UNLV. SDSU lost both of their games at the Los Angeles Regional. We'll never know how the Rebels would have done.
Let's move forward to 2017. The Mountain West Conference has not announced yet (as far as I know) but there are strong rumors that the tournament for next year will be limited to the top four finishers. That's a step in the right direction. The top four finishers in the regular season mean that, if it happened that way this year, only Fresno State, New Mexico, Nevada, and UNLV would have taken part. That would have left out Air Force, SDSU, and San Jose State. Look, you've heard me before, all I want are the deserving teams to be rewarded. That fits New Mexico and Fresno State just fine. Nevada was the surprise team of the year so they would have been in the mix, to be sure. UNLV would have been an attendee but only because of placement and not record; eight games under .500 gets a thumbs down from me. Anyway, this format will at least limit the participants to the top four finishers all, hopefully, with winning records. The MWC had a down year for the most part this season so UNLV would have been in.
That's one good point. Another is that I believe the attendance at the games would have been close to what it was this year. Most fans can be realistic and not attend if they are in last place. Why spend the money to watch them lose? I wouldn't. The fans of the top four teams would rightfully feel that the team they follow would have more than a good chance of pulling off a championship and the automatic bid. As I pointed out above, that usually happens. I didn't check other mid-major conferences that have tournaments but, in years past, upsets are the norm. If two or more bids is typical for the conference, I have no problem with tournaments. If it's a one-bid conference, I have big problems (no wisecracks here).
Just remember that the ACC had 10 bids (10!) and the SEC had six (I believe). The west was down overall. Yuck.
The WAC had one bid; Utah Valley which was a third place finisher in the conference but won the tournament. They lost both games in their regional.
Gonzaga finished in first in the WCC tied with Saint Mary's and BYU. They won the first game in their regional and lost the next two. BYU lost both games in the conference tournament so received no bid. Saint Mary's won the WCC tournament so received the automatic bid and lost both of their regional games. But, at least the WCC received two bids; the finalists in the WCC tournament (won by the Gaels).
The Big West is considered by many the top mid-major baseball conference in the west. No argument here. They also have no tournament. Thumbs up on that. Fullerton State (conference champ) won one game in their regional. Long Beach State was two and two in their regional. UCSB has turned out to be the pride of the west coast as they have made it to a super regional to face Louisville. Now hold on here; they eliminate Louisville to advance to the CWS. Let's all pull for a Gaucho victory in the CWS. I'm impressed. So, the Big West carries the flag for western mid-major baseball and also gets three bids. I have no argument there. Fullerton is always strong and both UCSB and Long Beach had their best seasons in quite awhile.
So, why do conferences have season ending tournaments. The only thing I can think of is that it's a money grab. The SEC has one and attendance is very good. They'd play 100 games if the NCAA would let them. Teams in this conference (or the other big boys) know that a lot more than two will get bids. How many out there think the ACC is so good as to receive 10 bids? Not me. It's a huge conference with 14 programs. I thought that Miami, Virginia, Louisville, Florida State, Clemson, and NC State all deserving of bids. That's six bids. The other teams that received bids that I didn't include could not win in their own conference. I think I've said enough. I think the MWC will again be a one bid conference next season as not enough freshmen pitching phenoms are coming back for their sophomore year. Let's all hope for an additional bid in 2017.