Is It Time To Change Conference Tournament Formats?

May 27, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Editorials, Softball 

Jaguar_Logo_720x544Though South Alabama’s baseball team was not selected for the NCAA Tournament, they did achieve more this season than many thought they would. Going into the season the league coaches and media voted the Jaguars to finish seventh in the conference. How wrong were they?

Probably one of the most telling weekends of the season was when the Jaguars seemingly came out of nowhere and seized first place in the conference and did not look back until the regular season ended and they had taken the regular season title with them.

And they were playing their best ball at the end of the season.

They tore through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Well, until the conference championship. But even that was a heavyweight bout. Tied 1-1 in the top of the 12th inning and Louisiana-Lafayette used a grand-slam home run to defeat the Jaguars. Unfortunately that left USA one win short of making the NCAA Tournament.

But could it be time to change the conference tournament formats?

The NCAA Regionals are a true double-elimination tournament where you could have a school face defeating a team twice on the same day to advance to the Super Regionals.

South Alabama was on both sides of the debate this season. The Jaguar softball team lost to Lousiana-Lafayette in the conference championship play-in game and lost. They then had to win the losers bracket to earn the right to a rematch with the Ragin’ Cajuns in the conference championship game. In that championship game the Jaguars held on to defeat the Cajuns, who were undefeated in the tournament, and take the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

But they have been on the other end of the of the same situation in recent history too. Against the very same school too!

So I ask again, should the conference championship game be winner-take-all or should they take the same approach as the NCAA Regional tournament and be a true double-elimination tournament? The current format, for those that do not know, is a single-elimination first-round followed by a double-elimination tournament until the championship game which is a winner-take-all game.

Either way, South Alabama would have been affected this season. The baseball team would have had a second shot at defeating the Cajuns for the automatic bid and the softball team would have needed to defeat those pesky Cajuns a second time to earn the automatic bid themselves.

Would the results have been the same? We won’t know.

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