Ivy League to add men’s, women’s hoops tournaments in 2017

NEW YORK (AP) — The last hold out for postseason conference tournaments has finally given in.

The Ivy League is adding men’s and women’s basketball tournaments next season that will determine the conference’s automatic berths for the NCAA Tournament.

“The structure of our basketball tournaments is consistent with our model of college athletics and the format allows us to preserve the significance of the regular season,” said Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris. “Most importantly, this creates a landmark event during March Madness for our basketball student-athletes to anticipate while they are in school and to cherish throughout their lives after graduation.”

The Ivy League had traditionally sent its regular season champion to the tournament.

Harris said that the discussions to add the tournament, which has been going on for many years, really ramped up in the fall of 2014 and the school presidents approved it this winter.

The 2017 tournament for men and women will be held March 11 and 12 at the Palestra in Philadelphia. Playing both tournaments together was important to the league.

“That was a huge part of our consideration,” Harris said. “It provides a wonderful opportunity to bring together our men’s and women’s basketball fans and constituents in one location, to celebrate the Ivy League and the sport of basketball. It brings more attention to each fan base. You may have some overlap with teams.”

While the Palestra is the on-campus arena for Penn, the league thought it was the best venue for the first tournament at least.

“Our groups considered many different options for location,” Harris said. “It was a very thorough discussion, whether going to the site of higher seed for example. Did we want to go to the Palestra? Did we want to find a neutral venue? At the end of the day, we should go to this iconic venue that exists in our own league.”

Harris said they would evaluate where the tournament would go in the future after next year’s one. Only the top-four teams in the standings will advance to the tournament.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase our talented student-athletes when all eyes are on college basketball,” said Princeton men’s coach Mitch Henderson. “These tournaments enhance the importance of every single game of our conference schedule as our teams compete for the opportunity to be a part of a championship experience.”

Princeton women’s coach Courtney Banghart was happy that the men and women would play in the same arena for the title.

“That’s important as an Ivy League alum,” said the Dartmouth graduate. “That should be really fun.”

While she’s happy there is a postseason tournament, she wished the league would have done more to protect the top seed like many other conferences do.

“Home court advantage is significant in basketball, it’s a big deal. Not protect your No. 1 team is odd.”

One of the keys to getting the tournament in place was playing on Saturday and Sunday to preserve students not missing classes — the reason that the league plays its conference schedule on Friday and Saturday nights. Also the presidents decided that each team in the league would have to get rid of one non-conference game because of the tournament.

Yale won for men and Penn the women this season under the traditional round-robin format.