After decades of independence, the Ivy League announced Thursday morning that it will be using men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to select its conference champions starting in the 2016-2017 season. Before establishing the four-team tournaments, which are slated to be held at The Palestra, the conference was the only one in the nation that used regular-season record, and not the outcome of a postseason tournament, to select a league champion.
In the absence of a tournament, the league’s regular-season champion had earned its automatic NCAA Tournament bid. Twice in the last five years, ties in the regular season standings on the men’s side had led to one-game playoffs for the title—with Harvard defeating Yale, 53-51, a year ago and losing to Princeton, 63-62, in 2011.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker wrote in a statement that the conference tournament provides an opportunity to showcase the league during college basketball’s most intense time of the year.
“We are excited that the Ivy League will host an inaugural conference basketball tournament next season,” Amaker wrote. “This is a terrific opportunity to showcase the depth of our league—and to provide our student-athletes with the always meaningful experience of playing in the post-season.”
Proponents of the regular season model contended that it made every single game meaningful. Around the Ivy League, players and coaches refer to the grind—with back-to-back games on six consecutive early-semester weekends—as “The 14-Game Tournament,” something that has historically distinguished the league around the country.
However, both Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris and Princeton men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson noted that the tournament, which will exclude half the league’s teams, does not destroy the importance of the regular season and will help the league build a better national brand.
"This is a great opportunity to showcase our talented student-athletes when all eyes are on college basketball,” Henderson said. “These tournaments enhance the importance of every single game of our conference schedule as our teams compete for the opportunity to be a part of a championship experience."
Under the new format, Harvard—which finished fourth in the league—would play Yale, the league champion, in the first men’s basketball semifinal. Princeton and Columbia, the league’s second- and third-place teams, would play in the other. On the women’s side, third-place Harvard would take on second-place Princeton for the right to play the winner of Penn and Dartmouth.
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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