A little madness has been added to March for Ivy League basketball fans. The League’s Council of Presidents announced Thursday that the men’s and women’s basketball seasons will conclude with a two-day, four-team playoff. The playoffs victors will advance to the NCAA tournament.
A long discussion with the teams’ athletic directors and coaches led the committee to add the playoffs to “enhance the overall experience” for the college hoopsters, said Peter Salovey, Yale president and chair of the Council of Presidents in a press release.
The tournament is a nationally covered event that could bolster the league’s popularity around the country. Princeton men’s basketball coach Mitch Henderson told the Associated Press the tournament could play a promotional role and “showcase our talented student-athletes when all eyes are on college basketball.”
Bruno men’s and women’s players and coaches have greeted the announcement with unanimous approval.
“I’m extremely, extremely excited. It’s long overdue,” said guard Tavon Blackmon ’17, adding that all his teammates shared his opinion.
“It’s a great day for Ivy League basketball,” said forward Rebecca Musgrove ’17.
“I have a lot of experience in the league as a player and coach,” said men’s Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. “It’s a giant step forward for the league.”
Women’s Head Coach Sarah Behn noted that the tournament will improve the Ivy League’s national recognition as well as draw top talent to the conference.
The tournament is “going to be a great recruiting tool as every young student-athlete wants a chance to play in March and in the NCAA’s.”
Neither the Bruno men nor women have secured an NCAA tournament berth for over a decade. The new playoffs system should help the Brown men and women get a shot at the NCAA tournament. Traditionally, the team has needed to finish first in the Ivy regular season to clinch a berth; now, even a fourth-place finish will put them in the Ivy playoffs, two wins away from a spot in the big show.
The decision was not met with universal approval, though, and the Ivy League’s announcement on Twitter Thursday morning elicited negative feedback from a number of fans.
Fox Sports columnist Sam Gardner called the playoff system “arbitrary and blatantly unfair” because it will allow a team with a worse record during the season to grab an NCAA bid with one upset performance. Others called it a breach of the Ivy League’s history of tradition and uniqueness.
But while some argue that it detracts importance from the regular season, Henderson argues just the opposite. In the past, teams in the middle and bottom of the standings would be eliminated with two or three weeks to play, but the opportunity to play into the top four lends importance to every team’s games.
Furthermore, the League said, the team with the best regular season record would still earn the title Ivy League Champion, even if it was beaten out for an NCAA tournament bid.
The Ancient Eight will christen its new tournament at Penn’s historical Palestra March 11 and 12, 2017.