The Great West Conference Finds a Home For Its Champion

Posted by nvr1983 on September 29th, 2009

Last year we brought you news about the creation of the newest Division I basketball conference, the Great West Conference, which will start organized operations this season. As we noted at the time, the league wasn’t exactly a “Who’s Who” of basketball powerhouses. In fact, the most notable program in the league was the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which went 0-29 in the 2007-2008 season before finally winning a game last season.

The full list of GWC members:

  • Chicago State University
  • Houston Baptist University
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • University of North Dakota
  • University of South Dakota
  • University of Texas-Pan American
  • Utah Valley University

Not exactly a murder’s row of programs that will challenge the ACC in the conference power rankings any time soon.  However, most people expect that under current NCAA guidelines the GWC could have an play-in automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by 2020. This would obviously impact the NCAA tournament by either removing one at-large team (unlikely) or expanding the NCAA tournament (more games = more money = very likely). The question for the GWC and its teams is what they are supposed to strive for until 2020. Theoretically they could qualify for an NCAA at-large bid (or maybe more realistically an NIT bid) if they hired some renegade coach who loaded them up with players who needed a little “SAT help.”  However, barring that not altogether improbable scenario (seriously, have you seen the headlines out of college basketball this week?) the champions would be relegated to watch the 2nd half of March from their couches like the rest of us.

CIT logo

Fortunately for the GWC and its members, the people at the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) have stepped into that void by offering the conference’s tournament champion an automatic bid in the CIT’s 16-team field. For those of you who missed the CIT last year, here is a rundown of the teams that participated, which was won by Old Dominion. While you shouldn’t expect to see ESPN and CBS keeping cameras in the offices of the James Madison Dukes this March to see if they are crushed when they don’t make the CIT, it does mark the first time that a D1 conference has had an agreement to get one of its teams an automatic bid into a tournament other than the NCAA Tournament and it also offers the new league something (albeit something very small) to entice recruits to join it in its formative years.

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Great West Conference: Another Play-In Game on the Horizon

Posted by rtmsf on September 27th, 2008

Several sources today are announcing the formation of the 32d Division 1 league, the Great West Conference, which will begin organized basketball operations in the 2009-10 season.  You may recall that the GWC already exists in football as a transitional league between D2 and D1-AA (or whatever they’re calling it now).  The basketball counterparts at most of these schools have largely been relegated to the dreaded Independent status, which forces those teams to schedule games anytime, anywhere, anyplace, in order to complete a full schedule.  One of these teams, the much-maligned New Jersey Tech, made infamy last year with an 0-29 season, earning the lowest Sagarin rating (46.91) of the past several years.

Frankly, despite the league’s spin on the matter, reading down a list of these schools sounds a little like something out of the American Chiropractic Colleges Association manual.  Houston Baptist, Texas-Pan American, New Jersey Tech, Utah Valley, North AND South Dakota. Not to mention the fact that with two Texas schools, a Utah school, two Dakota schools and a freakin NEW JERSEY school, this new league is all over the place (Cal Poly, UC-Davis and Southern Utah, each of whom play in the football version of the GWC, are not expected to leave their basketball conferences – the Big West x2 and Summit, respectively).

In fact, looking at the map below, this ”Great West” conference is 2,194 miles from east to west, 1,639 miles from north to south, and if you decided to drive the circuit between all six schools, it would take you through 22 states, 6,540 miles and approximately 41 Waffle Houses.  Oh, and only one team is even in a “western” time zone, with UVU in MST.

So what’s really going on here?  Of course, money.  The GWC is attempting to become the 32d league that gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, and while that may be a decade away (fulfilling all the requirements would take until 2020), Kyle Whelliston thinks that’s a possibility.

NCAA men’s basketball rules require conferences to pass a three-step eligibility check for auto-bid qualification: at least seven fully fledged Div. I members, seven that have been Div. I for at least eight years (known as “core members”), and six core members who have been league mates for five years. The current membership wouldn’t meet all of those guidelines until the year 2020.

You can rest assured that if the GWC eventually gets an automatic bid that the NCAA won’t take away one of the current 34 at-large bids, so the natural response would probably be to add another play-in game to the scorecard.  That would allow for two more teams to “make” the dance, and it would balance the brackets on both sides.  While this makes economic sense from an NCAA Tournament perspective, it’ll end up minimizing the achievements of the MEAC, SWAC and other league champions that have gotten accustomed to playing in the “real thing” on Thursday like everyone else.

And what happens to everyone’s bracket if one of these teams actually beats a #1 seed one of these days?

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