As the MAC women proved last season, there is the possibility for the MAC to be a two-bid league in the NCAA tournament. In fact, I am almost guaranteeing it again this season. The men, of course, have been shut out of that second bid for a long, long time. I am not exactly sure how long. Ask Keith Dambrot, he probably knows. Ok, I am sure, and it hasn’t happened this century.
There are a variety of factors, and strength of schedule is part of it. Well, not really, as this article from Cleveland.com does a good job of explaining. However, this article from CBS makes a good point. The MAC needs to adjust to the reality of the current climate of college basketball.
My suggestion is simple. Hold a second MAC tournament, this one at the beginning of the season. Obviously it’s not a MAC championship tournament, but a tournament the MAC hosts. I personally would hold it in Chicago, and I will get to the reason why in a bit. Take the top 4 MAC teams according to a preseason poll. Why? Because the power conferences have no problem stacking the deck, and the MAC should do the same. Then I would invite 4 teams from other conferences. I would literally go down the list of most prestigious basketball schools and make invites until I got my four yeses.
Why would a prestigious school accept such an invite? Well that’s why I picked Chicago. We have a school nearby, and it’s a hotbed for high school talent. I would lean on the ESPN a bit, too. We give them Tuesday night gold during the football season, they can feature this tournament.
My bracket would be simple, the 4 MAC schools vs. the others. While I wouldn’t officially announce it, I would seed the 4 MAC schools and seed the 4 others. The top MAC would play the worst other and so on. This would give the MAC schools the best chance for a quality non-conference win. Every so often, a MAC school would win “their” tournament, and give them an even better shot at making the NCAA.
My fixing is not done. I would do the tickets as such that it almost guaranteed a rowdy MAC favorable crowd. Maybe just give the tickets to Ohio students and tell them it’s Halloween in November. Or probably better, some sort of reward for academic excellence. Some of you are wondering why some of the power conference schools would accept such an arrangement, and you might be right. So then I would sweeten the financial pot for them. Any monies from the ESPN for televising this could go their way. Since it is Illinois, we could even probably figure out a way to tax the residents and give the money to the power schools. There is no doubt in my mind that these schools would sell out their “student” athletes for a few extra bucks. And, of course, we should use “MAC refs”. Not our normal refs, but some that know the score and make sure we get the calls.
Some of you might be appalled at this point. Why would we work so hard to cheat college kids out of a fair shot at competition, in an endeavor that should be secondary to their education? We shouldn’t. However, this is what has been happening to the MAC for more than the last 20 years and it is something to think about.