‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year. There’s confetti for throwing, nets due for cutting and courts that are primed to be stormed. There’s Cinderellas for crowning, 16-seeds for claiming and plenty of upsets abound. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
But in all seriousness, this is the most wonderful time of the year. There’s nothing quite like college basketball during the month of March — just ask Matt Hammer and the Sheridan College Generals.
We are currently in “Champ Week” and in less than a week we’ll be welcoming the opening round of the NCAA tournament. But referencing this week, Champ Week, there are some changes and alterations that should be made to what is already is a wonderful week.
The University of Wyoming’s women’s basketball team came up one win shy of a place in the big dance. The Cowgirls fell to Boise State 68-51 Wednesday night in what was mostly an empty Thomas and Mack Center.
And therein lies the biggest problem with this oh-so-grand week. Why, for the Mountain West Conference’s most important game, with an NCAA tournament ticket on the line, are we playing it at a neutral site with little to no atmosphere?
The MWC title, which aired on CBS Sports Network, should be doing what the Patriot League does; oddly enough it was the championship game airing right before. The Patriot League rewards its regular-season conference champion by giving it the honor and advantage of hosting the conference tournament.
And that’s how it should be. Without it, months of success go largely unrewarded. Oddly enough, most conferences do what the MWC does and hold the conference tournament at a neutral site.
For example, Wofford’s men’s basketball team, which finished the regular season a perfect 16-0 in conference, had to travel to Asheville, North Carolina, to take on UNC Greensboro for the Southern Conference’s automatic bid. So after dominating the conference for two and a half months, not losing a single game, the Terriers had to load up a bus and take on a UNC Greensboro squad in its home state.
Now, Wofford ended up winning that game, but the issue still remains, why wasn’t the game played in Spartanburg, South Carolina?
Why are we not rewarding a team for its body of work in conference? One of the biggest arguments against college basketball’s regular season is that it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to argue it when a team like Wofford, which dominated its regular season, isn’t gifted the conference tournament, which is many times the only avenue for a team like Wofford to make the Big Dance.
It also makes for a better game-day environment. Conferences such as the Patriot or the Atlantic Sun or the Big South — conference that have its No. 1 seed host the conference tournament — have small little gyms, filled to the brim with fans wanting to see if their team can punch its ticket, dance in March, and cut some nets. That’s the way it should be. It makes for the best atmosphere and gives that team most deserving the best chance of winning.
Instead, the MWC women’s basketball tournament, didn’t have a court storm. A quick shot by the camera man would show plenty of front-row seats void of anyone. The Broncos won, it’s their biggest and most important win of the season, and … there’s barely anyone there to share it with.
That’s not how it should be. Now, for conferences such as the ACC, Big 10 and Big 12, it’s fine to hold the tournament at a neutral site. Those fan bases are large enough and the teams are generally good enough to encourage fans to attend a neutral site.
But for the lesser-known conferences, for the Wofford’s of the world, which likely only have one game all season on ESPN, let the best team during the regular season host. Let’s give a team like the Terriers every advantage we can, an advantage it earned by dominating its conference in the months of January and February.
Let’s make this week, a truly wonderful time every year, even better.
Seven University of Wyoming wrestlers earned a spot — by either an automatic bid at the Big 12 tournament or an at-large bid thereafter — at nationals next week. Former Sheridan Bronc Hayden Hastings was given an at-large slot and is seeded 25th in the 174-pound weight class.
The UW men’s basketball team lost to New Mexico 78-68 Wednesday in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference tournament. The Pokes ended the season with an 8-24 record.