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The loss of the small conference tournament

America East conference Tournament

UMBC dance team

Tons of fans from all over the place in one arena, watching a lot of basketball, exciting dance teams and cheerleaders, loud bands and eccentric mascots is the best part of college basketball tournaments but small conferences are eliminating that with new playoff formats.

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There isn’t a better sports atmosphere than a conference basketball tournament. The tough competition against familiar foes combined with the competing bands and cheerleaders and dance teams along with the rabid fan bases who have traveled from far and wide to go crazy when their team’s star player slams home a fast-break dunk or swats away an arcing shot – it’s just a beautiful site to see and be in the middle of. There are four games in one day, the fanfare sections, alumni, students, local fans; it’s just a great way to spend a weekend watching what is usually fun and exciting basketball.

And that is why it is so sad to see small conference turning away from the one-site format and over to a round-by-round tournament format.

The logic behind it is…well, actually the logic isn’t really clear.

Take the America East Conference tournament for example. The America East Conference is a small conference filled with mostly small public schools in the Northeast, spanning from Maine down to Maryland. There are nine teams in the conference. Last year and years prior, the 8-9 game would happen on Friday. On Saturday there would be four quarterfinal games and on Sunday there would be two semifinal games. The following week, the conference championship would be hosted at the highest remaining seed. It was a perfect setup that rewarded a team for having a great season and allowed for a good-looking packed arena in one of the league’s few nationally televised games of the year.

This year, the America East took over the new round-by-round format. On a Wednesday, the four highest-seeded schools will host quarterfinal games. On a Sunday, two remaining highest-seeded schools will host the semi-finals. Then a week later, on Saturday the highest-remaining seed still host the Championship game.

League officials have publicly stated that the idea is to allow multiple schools to experience a postseason tournament while protecting the higher-ranked teams so the best team can get into the NCAA Tournament.

Maybe that make sense to try to get the best team in one of those First Four games, where a win would net the small conference more money by adding an additional NCAA Tournament game. But, it’s a horrible move for the league.

It’s really hard for a fans to travel potentially three times. Even for team’s that’s a lot of added travel cost. Perhaps that’s the point to make it a one-sided crowd, but then the beauty of a conference tournament is gone.

There is no more competing bands or spirit teams. There is no longer the four games in one-day. There is no longer the ability to meet fans from every different school around and there is no longer a battle between two competing mascots. The spirit and excitement of the conference tournament is dead.

And they are far from the only conference moving to this format. The Atlantic Sun, Northeast Conference and Patriot League have all adopted this format and it wouldn’t be surprising to see another small conference or two to make the switch next year.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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