Saturday, 5 December 2009

Expanded Tournament format set for vote

Many will recall that during last season's nationals a story first reported in the national media by Wayne Kondro of the Ottawa Citizen outlined a proposal developed by the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches - CIS coaches association) to expand the CIS post-season to include three regional tournaments leading up to the Final 8. The result is a tournament format that is more inclusive (17 teams) yet maintains the current eight team format at the championship site.

As NABC President James Hillis of Regina commented "It was important to keep in place the three-day, eight-team format for the final three rounds". Indeed, marketing a Final Four, with only two semi-finals and a championship game, with the added element of no host, as apparently was being considered for the CIS women's nationals, would be a more difficult sell; the first day of the tournament with four games has always been a very exciting day for fans and worth travelling for, setting up the weekend semi-finals and championship Sunday very nicely - very importantly making it more worthwhile for and more likely that out-of-town fans to travel to the tournament site.

The NABC proposal, to be tabled to the CIS membership at the CIS Annual General Meetings this coming June, has the four conference champions plus a host bid making up five of the teams at the Nationals. The other 3 teams would qualify by winning one of the 3 four team regionals (involving 12 other teams). As such, the "tournament" provides 17 teams across the country with a shot at the Nationals after conference playoffs are completed and more programs, players and fans an opportunity at experiencing the post-season for longer.

The proposal also outlines how the hosting of the three regionals will happen. Each season, Canada West and the OUA will host one regional apiece. The third regional would rotate in a three-year cycle, with the AUS hosting for two years followed by one season for the QSSF (and then back to AUS for two years and Q for one). The impetus for this set up is to parse up regionals by size of conference. Individual conferences would then have the flexibility of determining which team would host their regional: a couple of possibilities include the runner-up in the conference playoffs hosting a regional and a regional played at a pre-determined site (possibly more effective for marketing the event).

Assuming the CIS membership approves the tournament format in June, CIS fans should expect this new, exciting set up to commence in time for the 2011-12 post-season (two more seasons).

The final issue is how the 12 non-auto-qualifying teams might be selected and seeded. Here is one view as to how the tournament could unfold in March, 2012.

Nationals Host: AUS (Halifax Metro Center)
1. AUS automatic bid
2. AUS champion (decided by winner of 6 team AUS post-season tournament)
3. Quebec league champion
4. Ontario league champion (winner of Wilson Cup game OUA East playoff winner vs. OUA West playoff winner - site rotates each season)
5. Canada West champion (winner of Canada West Final Four tournament)

Regional #1 at Canada West site
Regional #2 at OUA site
Regional #3 at AUS site.

Candidates for regionals (12 teams):
Regional #1 Top Seed: Canada West finalist
Regional #2 Top Seed: OUA finalist
Regional #3 Top Seed: AUS finalist
Teams 4 through 12 (seeded according to overall record vs. CIS teams; higher seeds stay as close to home as possible without playing in their home regional where possible):
- Canada West third-place game winner
- Canada West Final Four participant
- OUA East finalist
- OUA West finalist
- Quebec league finalist
- AUS third-place game winner
3 Wild Cards

Under this multi-wild card scenario, all games, including pre-season and holiday tournament games are meaningful not just playoff games since all games impact the wild card selections. I would be a proponent of a system that rewards teams for playing a fuller schedule of games vs. CIS teams outside of their regular conference games. From the perspective of fan interest, intrigue and value of quality and quantity of non-conference record vs. CIS teams, retaining wild cards is best.

This is a very strong first step toward giving the CIS post-season a higher profile and allow more student athletes to experience higher profile events. It remains to be seen how this tournament format is supported by a comprehensive marketing effort that seeds interest in the tournament early in the season and maintains interest through the CIS Nationals.

Expect to hear more details and hopefully a favorable vote/announcement from the CIS sometime in June, 2010.


Pete said...

This is a great idea and I sure hope it passes. Not only would it allow for a Cinderella run (a wild card running the table at a regional and then repeating the feat at nationals), it would also create some interesting interconference matchups in the regionals.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I can't go for this at all.
I subscribe to the KISS theory....this format just seems too convoluted for me.
First of all, the CIAU as it was then known tried a regional tournament format back in the mid 1980's and for whatever reason, it was dropped after about four years.
What I object to is this new format fails to take into account
some obvious inequities that exist between different leagues.
For example, the loser of the Wilson Cup would be required to participate in this tournament, while the QSSF winner gets an automatic berth.
This year it appears the QSSF is exceptionally weak, with Laval, apparently the league's best team, going 3-7 in their non conference schedule.
Meanwhile, you could have a scenario like last year where Carleton, 21-1, beat Western, 19-3 for the Wilson.
Later,the national semi between these two was the most talked about game all last season.
Now are you telling me that a team with a 19-3 record, after losing to the the top team in the country for the better part of the last decade must now compete in some second chance tournament to qualify, while some inferior teams get an automatic berth because they won a weak conference?
Where is the fairness in that?
This system basically screws the OUA big time.
There are only 43 teams in the entire country.
Out of that, 30 qualify for post season play
6 of 8 make the AUS tournament.
12 of 16 qualify for the OUA playoffs.
4 out of 5 for the QSSF.
8 out of 13 for Canada West.
That means only 13 teams out of 43 miss the post season..pretty generous by my reckoning.
Also, this tournament will take place AFTER the CIS conference playoffs conclude?
So that will add another week or two to an already long season?
Meanwhile, what are the 5 teams that have already qualified suppose to do?
Cool their heels for two weeks?
To say nothing about the additional expense of running this thing.
Really, this whole idea sounds like it was cooked up by Ottawa City's that dumb.
To quote a lyric from an old Hall and Oates song....I can't go for that, uh-uh, no can do.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the OUA will go for it, as they only get one automatic bid... currently the East and West winners both get automatic bid....