March Madness is officially on, starting at the Division III level, whose Selection of the teams will be later today. I like how the NCAA tournament is set up (64 teams in four or eight different regions), but unfortunately, I do not like how conferences send their representatives to the tournament – in all but two conferences in the three NCAA Divisions combined, the conference tournament’s winner gets the automatic bid, and it’s hit or miss for the regular season champions who did not win the conference tournament (more often they miss the tournament, especially in the low and mid major conferences of Division I.)

I am a fan of both conferences who only use regular season play as a means of determining their conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. These conferences are the Ivy League, as mentioned earlier in this blog, and the University Athletic Association, the Ivy’s counterpart in Division III, though the latter is quite a high-major conference in their Division.

The conference tournament format for men’s basketball started in 1921 in the Southern Conference. It was later instituted by all other conferences throughout the years save for the two conferences stated above. Although the formats for the tournaments differ by conference, still, it gives the lower-ranked teams, often having below .500 records in their season and/or their conference season, potential to upset the higher-ranked teams to get the ticket many teams aim for. That’s the thing that makes conference tournaments often unlikeable for me. However, some of my fellow posters in the forums I post like the idea because it can make virtually anyone eligible a winner in the tournament that matters, the NCAA tournament. Some of the upsets and near-upsets that happened in the Big Dance were from conference tournament champions that were second, third or further below the regular season standings. However, it’s also unfair that the regular season champions who fall in conference tournaments also get stunned in the NIT, which gets the autobids of the regular season champions if they fail to win the conference tournament and are snubbed from the NCAA tournament as at larges.

Although the term March Madness was originally coined by a high school sports association, it was the NCAA who made it into a trademark, due to the increasing popularity of the NCAA tournament over the years.

As an alternative to conference tournaments, why not invite both regular season champions and second placers in the conferences, if both standings and statistical rankings are high enough for the latter? But this may not work because there are often logjams in some conferences that use often dubious tiebreakers to determine the second placer and/or even the first placer.