Detroit — OK, so now what?
The Horizon League changed its tournament bracket this year, eliminating the double-bye for the top two seeds — interestingly, at the request of the top two seeds, who were eliminated in their opening games a year ago.
Well, that didn’t work.
With a single bye this year, the top two seeds, again Oakland and Valparaiso, again were one and done.
Rust was a concern with the double-bye. Nobody really has any explanation for what happened this year, with a more traditional bracket.
“I think we have to stay with it for a while,” Horizon League commissioner Jonathan LeCrone said.
“I wish I had a vote, but I don’t. I will try to influence it.
“Let’s stay with it for a few years.”
With a 10-team league, bracketing can be tricky. Somebody has to get at least one bye, and obviously the byes have to go to the top teams during the regular season.
The double-bye was seen as too much time off a year ago.
LeCrone said the Horizon League took input from coaches and athletic directors a year ago, and came up with five or six different models, taking those back to school officials.
“We didn’t just pull it out of a hat,” LeCrone said Monday. “I’d like to stay with it, and I will tell the coaches that.”
Planting the seed
By losing the top two seeds early the last two years, the Horizon League cost itself a shot at a better seed for its automatic qualifier in the NCAA Tournament.
Going in as a 14 or a 15 makes an opening NCAA Tournament win very difficult, and that is big money.
Each NCAA Tournament win nets a conference additional revenue.
LeCrone said the key is to get the Horizon League above the No. 9 line in seeding. Butler, when it was in the Horizon League, made the national-championship game in 2010 as a No. 5 seed, and again the next year as a No. 11 seed.
“The other goal is at-large consideration,” LeCrone said. “That’s gonna take some internal improvement, and maybe some external.”
What does that mean?
Cue the expansion talk.
LeCrone said the Horizon League again is exploring adding a school or even multiple schools. There have been preliminary discussions; nothing is imminent.
Oakland joined the Horizon League in 2013, replacing Loyola. Northern Kentucky, in Tuesday night’s men’s championship game, joined in 2015.
“Certainly, there are conversations that are pretty active,” LeCrone said, of course, without naming possible additions.
As for getting consideration for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, scheduling and RPIs could have a lot to do with that.
LeCrone said the league has been consulting with an RPI expert, looking for ways to boost the conference’s numbers, particularly at the bottom.
“We can’t have teams in the 300s in the RPI and expect our league champion to be a 7 seed,” he said. “We have to get better at the bottom, and we have to challenge our people at the top.”
... LeCrone reiterated he was not at all disappointed with the early upsets in the tournament, specifically the early losses of Oakland and Detroit Mercy — even though those, no doubt, cost the league in ticket sales for later rebounds.
“The outcomes are the outcomes,” he said.
... After next year’s tournament at Little Caesars Arena, the third of a five-year contract to hold the tournament in Detroit, there is an opt-out.
“This is where we want to be,” LeCrone said. “And we’d like to be here for a long time. I think we’re really building something special.”