UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Time to give the regular season a boost

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgFor the record, Bo Ryan's Badgers went 3-0 against the two teams that beat Kentucky this season.

Wisconsin beat Indiana twice, and then knocked off Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament. Maybe that is small consolation, and I understand that comparing scores can be misleading, but I thought I would throw it out there.

Now you know.

In the world of college football and basketball, it is interesting how the sports have such vastly different seasons.

In football, the regular season is precious, and the critics continue to hammer away for a playoff. In basketball, for millions of the more casual sports fans, it is all about those three weeks in March and early April.

I believe it is safe to say that a good chunk of the sporting public pays close attention to college hoops only during the NCAA tournament.

Locally, that might not be the case because attendance at the Kohl Center remains strong, but there is a reason CBS pays billions of dollars in rights fees, and it probably isn't for the Sunday games it shows in January.

While the powers that be continue to discuss a possible football playoff, maybe college basketball could look at ways to boost the regular season.

One idea seems obvious -- reward the regular season conference champion with an automatic bid in the NCAA field.

Clearly, this was not a banner year for the Pac-12, but for Washington, a league crown was rendered useless after a conference tournament loss to Oregon State.

For the Huskies, it was off to the NIT. To their credit, they advanced to the semifinals before losing to Minnesota. I say "to their credit" because it might have been very easy for Washington's players to blow off that tournament.

I mean, what does a coach say to a team after it wins the regular season title, only to be told that it is still not good enough to get in the NCAA tournament?

I understand the reason for conference tournaments. Revenue, for one, and a chance for lower-profile conferences to get some national exposure.

Everyone knows the risk involved, and there have been multiple instances where those so-called mid-major teams have lost an NCAA bid because of five bad minutes in a league tourney game.

This season it just happened to burn a program in a power conference.

Yes, it was a down year for that league, but there were 12 teams with a lower RPI than Washington that made the dance.

While the RPI is only part of the formula the tournament selection committee uses, doesn't that fact seem a bit odd?

Perhaps it is unrealistic to reward automatic bids for both regular season and conference tournament champions, but it seems to me that a team proving to be the best of its league during a period of more than two months should carry a little extra weight.

I get the excitement of conference tournaments, but I believe the game would be even better if the regular season is rewarded as it should be -- all across the board.

March Madness is great, and I love every minute of it. I also happen to enjoy those other months of the college basketball season.

Fortunately here in Wisconsin, I have lots of company. A big-time regular season game generates plenty of buzz in Badger Nation, and that is good.

I just tend to believe that too many sports fans across the nation are missing out on the fun prior to March.

1 Comment

You are saying exactly what I have been saying for years. College basketball has all its eggs in one basket. Something needs to be done to make the regular season worth more.