|Posted by Brian Dickmann on March 5, 2016 at 12:55 AM|
Photo: Scott Davis
For the first time since 2002, the Horizon League will host its annual conference tournament at a single venue.
The past 12 years had seen first round games played on campus sites of the higher seed followed by the quarterfinals and semifinals played at the arena of the regular season champion.
The championship game was played at the highest remaining seed.
Last year the conference decided to shake things up in a major way when they announced a five year agreement to host the conference tournament in Detroit, starting with this year and next at the Red Wings’ home Joe Louis Arena and the final 3 years at the new arena the NHL club is building downtown.
“I like the neutral site, I think it’s good,” head coach Linc Darner said. “I think it’s great for the players to go play in a big arena. Most conference tournaments have gone that way, there’s not a lot that are back on campus sites anymore.”
Many fans are skeptical of the idea of a single venue tournament and think attendance could be sparse, though the first and second round games were never particularly well attended in the previous tournament setup. But if Oakland or Detroit are not in the championship game, attendance will suffer.
“I think as time goes this thing’s going to build,” Darner said. “We’ve got a good commitment with Detroit, they’re going to build a new Red Wings arena and we’re going to move into that in a couple years and I just think it’s going to create a great atmosphere for the conference tournament.
“I think it’s good, it makes an even playing field.”
The tournament also has moved from a week long to a four day event.
In the past, first round games were played on Tuesday night on the campus sites followed by the quarterfinals on Friday and semifinals on Saturday. The championship game was played the following Tuesday night.
This year, the opening round takes place Saturday with quarterfinals on Sunday, semifinals on Monday, and the championship game on Tuesday.
The format, for the most part, has stayed the same. The top two seeds, Valparaiso and Oakland, receive a double-bye into the semifinals and will only need to win 2 games to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
“I’m sure Valpo, being the #1 seed, is not liking it,” Darner said. “I think they’d rather have it their place where they have a good home court advantage. I understand that argument too where we’re pretty much a one bid league and there should be an advantage for the team that wins it. I think they do. Both them and Oakland have a double bye.”
For seeds 3 through 10, it will take four wins in four nights to get it done.
Green Bay gets the tournament started as the #4 seed against #9 seed Cleveland State at 11:00 AM on Saturday. Other matchups include #5 Milwaukee vs #8 Northern Kentucky, #3 Wright State vs #10 UIC, and #6 Detroit vs #7 Youngstown State. All games will be streamed on ESPN3.
Sunday’s quarterfinals will feature the winners of Saturday’s game and will tip-off at noon and 2:30 Central time, respectively.
For the first time, Monday night’s semifinal games will both air live on ESPNU. In the past only 1 game was live with the other airing on tape delay.
Tuesday night’s championship game starts at 6:00 and will be televised on ESPN.
For Green Bay, it’ll take three wins in three days to get there.
“If we are fortunate enough to get to Monday or Tuesday night, there’s no reason why we’re tired,” Darner said. “You can’t be tired at this time of the year.”
“With what’s all on the line there’s no way a guy can say I’m too tired to play.”
Categories: Motor City Madness