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Stats Corner: A New MWC Tournament Format

Proposing a change to improve the MWC B-Ball Tournament

Nevada v Boise State Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

I had originally planned on submitting this article next week during the MWC tournament, but Rudy put up a poll and ask if the MWC should give their top seeds byes until the semi-finals to protect the best teams from upsets and 61% said yes. This article is proposing a different approach, and unlike my PAC 12/MWC merger proposal, I think this one could go through. There are four things that should happen during the tournament and this proposal addresses them 1) avoid losing the top seeds to an early upset, 2) provide a distinct advantage to the top teams 3) boast the resume of the top teams for the best seeding and bids in the NCAA tournament, and 4) provide interesting games which will attract viewers, give a reason for the games to be televised, and increase interest in the conference. The proposed format is a variation of the playoff format for Aussie Rules Football, so it is used and works in practice, not just theoretical.

Under this format the top 8 teams qualify and the bottom 3 stay home. As of Wednesday March 2nd the seeding would be

#1 Boise State NET 29

#2 Colorado State NET 28

#3 Wyoming NET 44

#4 San Diego State NET 26

#5 UNLV NET 92

#6 Fresno State NET 67

#7 Utah State NET 68

#8 Nevada NET 126

With New Mexico, Air Force and San Jose State staying home.

Day 1 Wednesday

Game 1 #1 vs #4: Boise State vs San Diego State

Game 2 #2 vs #3 Colorado State vs Wyoming

Game 3 #5 vs #8 UNLV vs Nevada

Game 4 #6 vs #7 Fresno State vs Utah State

I can hear the arguments now, “What about top seed upsets?” The answer, “it does not happen”. This is where it is a little different. The losers of 5/8 and 6/7 are one and done, go home. The winner of 1/4 and 2/3 get a second-round bye and the losers play the winners of the lower games. In other words, if you earn a top 4 seed you will either get a second-round bye (a rest day), or a double elimination game. Therefore, there is an advantage to earning a top 4 spot. The resumes for the top schools are also enhanced as the winning teams would have a Q1 victory added the first day of the tournament instead of a Q3 or Q4 victory at best, which does not help, or a lose and out of the tournament. It terms of getting interest this is a better TV deal that a network showing #11 vs #14 from the ACC, of #6 vs #11 from the Big East, #11 vs #14 from Big 10, #8 vs $9 from Big 12, or even a #5 vs #12 match up from the PAC 12.

Day 2 Thursday

Game 5 Loser of 1/4 vs winner of 5/8

Game 6 Loser of 2/3 vs winner of 6/7

Starting the second day, it is lose and go home. The winners from the top games get a bye and rest day, their advantage for the success of the regular season and the losers of the top games get a second chance as their reward for the regular season. It is tempting to go with highest seed plays the lowest seed, but if that is case there is a pretty good chance that day 3 is a repeat of day 1 and that does not help anyone. Unfortunately, this is not the TV draw of the first night, but it does mean that even if there is an upset in every game at least 2 top ranked teams make it through day 3.

Day 3 Friday

Game 7 winner of Game 1 (had a 2nd round bye) vs winner of Game 6

Game 8 winner of Game 2 (had a 2nd round bye) vs winner of Game 5

This could be a lot of different match-ups depending who wins the first round. That winner of the first round will have a day off to rest and get ready, while the other team will have played 2 games and either be 2-0 if a lower seed or 1-1 if it is a higher seed. The advantage is definitely to the team who did well in the regular season and won the opening round. Teams who play well are rewarded throughout this system. The lower seeds, are given a chance, but they will have played two tough games to get here. Once again, it is tempting to do highest seed vs lowest seed, but we do not want a day 1 rematch. On a plus side, if the higher seeds on day 2, the winners today will have another Q1 win on their resumes, bringing the total to 2 after 3 days of tournament ball.

Day 4 Saturday

Winner of Friday’s games. It is possible that there could be 2-0 (with a bye) team here, or a 2-1 team (lost opening round but then won) or a 3-0 (lower seed and won all their games) depending on their path. It is possible that the winner could now have 3 Q1 victories which will improve their NET rankings and the runner-up could have 2 Q1 victories and 1 Q1 lose which will help, but not hurt much, their NET rankings and their chances of an at-large bid plus a better seed in the NCAA tournament. While it is possible that this could be a rematch of a day 1 game, it is most likely going to be a match up to of two Q1 teams which would be good for the conference as it leads to better seeds and more bids to the NCAA tournament.

This format would give an incentive for teams to continue to play through the end of the season, as a top 4 seed in more valuable than a lower seed and with three teams staying home, teams need to play throughout the season to even make the tournament. The top seeded games on Day 1 would give resume boosting games to the teams while not penalizing the teams who lost by allowing them to have a double elimination game instead of being bounced out and for the winning team, who would not want a bye on Day 2 instead of the opening round? The Day 1 games could be the top ranked games in the nation and offer a great draw for TV audiences who do not want to watch double seeded teams from the other conferences And finally, it prevents the top teams from being upsetted on the first day due to a bad game, being knockced out of the tournament and possibley losing a NCAA bid or at least losing several seeds as a result.