Former Wright State men’s basketball coach Billy Donlon and women’s coach Mike Bradbury were outspoken critics of a Horizon League tournament format that will undergo changes in 2017 just in time for their successors’ first appearances.
The HL Executive Council on Wednesday approved a revised tournament bracket, with one of the biggest changes on the men’s side being the elimination of the double byes for the top two seeds, something Donlon railed against during an impassioned postgame press conference a few weeks before he was fired in March.
The biggest change for the women is the entire event has been moved from campus sites to a single, neutral location, which is a format Bradbury repeatedly called for throughout his five-year tenure at WSU before taking the job at New Mexico.
The 2017 women’s tournament will run concurrently with the men’s from March 3-7 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. In 2018, both events will move to Little Caesar’s Arena, which is currently under construction in downtown Detroit.
“We’re excited to welcome the women’s basketball championship to the city of Detroit and Joe Louis Arena to build on the success we witnessed in our first season hosting Motor City Madness,” said Tom Wilson, president & CEO of Olympia Entertainment, which staged the men’s tournament in Detroit for the first time this past season.
“Those of us who have been in the league really wanted our student-athletes to have more of a conference tournament feel, and having the first two rounds at home sites really took away from that,” said first-year WSU women’s coach Katrina Merriweather. “I’m really excited about this for our student-athletes after all of the good things I heard about the way they ran the men’s tournament last year.”
The new bracket approved by the Executive Council features opening-round games between the Nos. 7 and 10 seeds and Nos. 8 and 9 seeds on Friday, March 3.
The No. 1 seeds will play the winner of the 8-9 game, while the No. 2 seeds will play the 7-10 victor on Saturday, March 4, with the prevailing teams earning an off day on Sunday, March 5 while the 4-5 and 3-6 games are staged.
The semifinals will be held Monday, March 6, followed by the championship games Tuesday, March 7.
“We should be benefiting the higher seeds, and I think this does that,” WSU men’s coach Scott Nagy said. “You get a first-round bye, and then if you win you get a day off. That’s the way to do things. You play the whole year, and if you prove how good you are there should be benefits from that.”
But Nagy said he would not have been opposed to even greater benefits, namely keeping the double-bye reward in place for the top two seeds.
“I just think if you don’t like the benefits for those teams, then become one of those teams,” he said. “Like I said, you play all year to prove who deserves that. I don’t think the (new day off reward between the second round and semifinals) is as much of an advantage as people make it out to be.”
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