In the modern world of college basketball, every Division I conference except the Ivy League sponsors a post-season conference tournament. In 2013, there were 31 such tournaments.
For teams that have played extremely well during the regular season, these tournaments are not crucial but a good performance can improve a team’s seeding in the NCAA tournament. For teams on the proverbial bubble, a good performance, even short of a conference championship, can be enough to push a team into the field of 68.
For teams that have no chance of being selected for the post-season on the basis of their regular season performance, their fans can always hope for a miracle run that will allow them to claim their conference’s championship and its automatic bid to the “Big Dance.”
It is not hard to understand the popularity of these tournaments. They bring together into a single building all of the conference’s teams as well as a congregation of fans from across the conference. Some fans are willing to spend large sums to attend the tournament in person, and thousands more are happy to watch it on television or listen to the games on the radio. Fans of underperforming teams know that somewhere out there in the basketball stratosphere there is a team with a losing record that is going to catch fire and will end up matching the NCAA tournament. With luck, that team will be their team.
However, students of the history of college basketball know that 40 years ago, such tournaments were quite rare in major college basketball. Although district championship tournaments were ubiquitous in high school basketball in the 1950s and 1960s, they were once shunned by college conferences. Read more »