Last week, the news became official that the Ohio Valley Conference was getting rid of their divisions for Men’s basketball, something added in the 2012-13 season as other conferences were getting rid of theirs. (That…should have been a hint)
For the most part, divisions weren’t meant to be all that controversial — the OVC wasn’t never going to do a 22-game conference slate for a true 12-team round robin, and under the 16-game schedule, each team’s opponents would be balanced within a division. At most, only one seed, the No. 2 seed, would be affected by divisions anyway, so on paper it didn’t seem like a big deal.
And yet, somehow, we ended up with a complete mess. Why? Here’s the biggest reasons by divisional play was a disaster.
More deserving teams got shafted from the two seed
This is perhaps as much of an issue of OVC Tournament format as it was the divisions themselves, but with the divisional leaders guaranteed a top-2 seed, and the top-2 seeds getting double-byes compared to just a single-bye for the 3 and 4-seed, this proved to be a issue.
|Season||The No. 2 seed (Record)||Teams with a better record, but lower seed|
|2012-13||Murray State (10-6)||Eastern Kentucky (12-4)
Tennessee State (11-5)
|2013-14||Murray State (13-3)||None|
|2015-16||UT Martin (10-6)||Morehead State (11-5)
Tennessee State (11-5)
Tennessee Tech (11-5)
|2016-17||UT Martin (10-6)||None|
Twice in five years isn’t all that bad on face, but giving the team with the 4th and 5th best record a double-bye doesn’t sit well, which happened in those two seasons. The 2015-16 year is probably the worse of the two offenders: without divisions, the Skyhawks would have been relegated to the first round, and faced off against the buzzsaw that year that was Austin Peay. (Who beat the Skyhawks in the final)
It’s hard to explain why, in any league, why a team with a better record gets a worse position in a post-season tournament, especially given how important winning that tournament is — not just for the team, but the conference wants their best team to go to the NCAA Tournament, where a single win is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for the league and it’s members.
It was a bad look, and it nearly happened again last year, if not for Morehead State losing two straight to end the year.
The divisions were always lopsided
And usually tilted towards the East.
|Season||East record vs West (pct)|
Not one season was really competitive between the two divisons. The new scheduling keeps many of the same scheduling principles as the old setup (each team from the West will play a home-and-home every year) so this is something that really isn’t being solved.
I would love to see the OVC go to a rivals type system for intra-division play as well. It’s our only hope for a yearly Belmont / Murray State home-and-home. (You’d watch.)
Tiebreaker rules were needlessly confusing
Every year, I had to look them up. That’s because there were essentially two different tiebreakers: one for a tie amongst divisional leaders, and one for any other tiebreaking scenario. Thankfully, there were only two ties atop a division over the five years of divisional play.
Hint to the OVC moving forward: keep it simple. Please? My head still hurts from this March.
There weren’t many down-to-the-wire divisional races
One reason to create divisions is to create drama at the end of the season: instead of having one title to battle for, you’d have two divisional races. It works in Major League Baseball, right?
Only, that didn’t really happen all that often. Another chart.
|Final Standings||# of times it happened|
|Tie atop division||2|
|Team won division by 1 game||2|
|Team won division by 2 game||2|
|Team won division by 3 or more games||4|
So more than half of the time, the division wasn’t even close.
That’s my list on why I’m glad to see divisions gone. Do you feel the same? Hit me up in the comments, or on twitter @OVCBall