Should the NCAA change conference tournaments?

Aly Gamez reacts after an official waves off her potential game-tying basket in overtime against Boise State at Mountain West Championship Game at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (Armando Carreno/The Collegian)

Through the latter half of the season, Fresno State women’s basketball steamrolled the Mountain West (MW) conference in 2020, winning 14 of 16 games and 13 in a row.

The streak featured several game winners at home against San Jose State and Colorado State. The Fresno State Bulldogs also won in tough places on the road like ExtraMile Arena in Boise, Idaho and The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M.

Still, the ‘Dogs had their NCAA tournament hopes on the line against the Boise State Broncos in the Air Force Reserves Mountain West Championship Game. It was a one possession game in overtime with four seconds left.

Bulldogs’ junior Aly Gamez made the potential game-tying shot.

The catch — the shot was waved off as the official said the ‘Dogs called a timeout. Fresno State didn’t have any timeouts left, so Boise State was given two technical free throws.

Bulldogs’ guard Haley Cavinder said they did everything right, but it just wasn’t enough.

“We missed the free throw that we needed, get the tip back in,” Cavinder said. “At that point, it wasn’t in our control, and that’s what’s hard about it is that play kind of decided the game.”

ESPNW writer Graham Hays recently wrote an article, saying the automatic bid for conference tournaments should be ditched altogether.

Frankly, I agree. Fresno State ran away with the Mountain West regular-season’s championship but lost their chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament because of an arbitrary call in a three-day tournament. 

Fresno State will finish its season in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT), which is a disappointing end to a stellar season. Still, this occurrence isn’t rare.

Last season, North Carolina A&T was another team that lost in its conference tournament, finishing their season in the WNIT. 

To fix the issue, Hays proposed teams that win the conference tournament win a separate trophy and a berth to the WNIT, while teams that win the regular season championship head to the NCAA tournament.

This is an issue the NCAA has to address because one thing is certain — the Bulldogs should be on the big stage. 

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