As of right now, 31 of the 32 Division-I college basketball conferences plan to play their conference tournaments. However, according to 41 head coaches surveyed by CBS’s Matt Norlander, more than one in four believe it’s not a good idea.
Norlander posed the simple question: “Should your league stage a conference tournament this season?” While 73 percent of those 41 coaches answered “yes,” 27 percent answered “no.” The main reason for this answer is that the conference tournament isn’t a necessary appendage to the NCAA Tournament, especially in a year like this one.
Now, I know 27 percent doesn’t seem like a huge number, but that’s more than one in every four coaches. That would equate to roughly five SEC coaches being against having the SEC Tournament.
If a conference tournament is cancelled, the alternative is simply to give the automatic bid to whoever won the regular season conference title. The biggest problem with these tournaments is postponements.
On Tuesday, the NCAA revealed the schedule for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday remains March 14. While no conference has decided to cancel its tournament or push it up in an attempt to further separate the conclusion of league play with Selection Sunday, scheduling could become an unavoidable conflict. Teams aren’t playing their conference tournament after Selection Sunday, so one postponement could lead to its demise.
Moreover, more play means a bigger risk of exposure to COVID-19. The NCAA has mandated that every player and coach on a team must test negative for seven consecutive days prior to traveling for the NCAA Tournament. One player picking up COVID in an “unnecessary” conference tournament game could possibly end that team’s season.
Of course, the reason this is most noteworthy for our purposes is because it’s looking like the Kentucky Wildcats will need to win the SEC Tournament to even get invited to the Big Dance. Even if the Cats win out, which they won’t, there’s a chance they won’t make tournament.
So, what they’re playing for right now is enough improvement to give them a chance at the SEC Tournament crown.
The tournament’s cancellation, however, would likely end any hope that remains for both the players and fans.
As mentioned above, no conference tournaments have been cancelled to date, but it’s something to keep an eye on as we hopefully watch the young Cats improve over the last half of the season.