Every so often, an idea crosses my mind that makes me wonder why it already hasn't been done before. And with the NCAA Tournament only a few weeks away, there is no better time to discuss what's on my mind: the introductory Massachusetts Men's Basketball Beanpot.
Of course, this is just a figment of my ever-broadening imagination. It's not real. But I wish there was one. After all, we have the traditional hockey Beanpot, ongoing since 1952. There's the women's hockey Beanpot. The baseball Beanpot is played at Fenway Park, with hardball-less Boston University replaced by UMass. They have one for both soccers, softball and women's rowing. Heck, they even have it for cycling. I didn't even know they had cycling at the Beanpot schools.
But for some reason, there is not an annual competition for men's basketball. That should change as soon as possible.
I took the liberty of drawing up two proposals which, with some minor tweaking, could work.
The first is a week-long tournament, starting with pool play. We would take the six Division 1 teams in Massachusetts -- UMass, BC, BU, Northeastern, Harvard and Holy Cross -- and divide them into two pools of three. Pool play would take three days, two games a day. The top two teams in each pool would advance to the semifinals, while the third-place teams would play a fifth-place game. At the very least, teams would get three games. The top two teams would get four games: they would play the semifinals and either the championship game or the third-place game. The pool winners would cross over with the runners-up to decide the championship game.
So where to play it?
Of course, the championship and semifinals should be played at TD Garden. Pool play should be, in my eyes, relegated to the MassMutual Center in Springfield and the DCU Center in Worcester, shifting sites every year. I would have suggested the Mullins Center, Agganis Arena or Conte Forum, but that would infringe on revenue sharing.
Yes, all participants would receive equal shares of gate receipts. The buildings involved, of course, would receive a greater amount for hosting the event (10 games in five days), which means they have to pay for security and lights and table help, unless that is handled by the host school. If pool play was hosted by the MassMutual Center, UMass would be responsible for table help; if it was the DCU Center, then Holy Cross would take care of that. The four Boston schools would rotate during the fifth-place, semis, third-place and championship game. Each school would divvy up the rest, with the proceeds going to their respective general scholarship funds.
The other idea would be to have a tournament format, with all the games played at one site, rotated between Springfield, Worcester and Boston. The team's schedule would read: Beanpot vs. TBA, because the schedule would not be set until a certain date.
The top two teams in the Commonwealth on that date would receive byes to the semifinals; this can either be determined via straight winning percentage or by a computer ranking. It would, in essence, make every game count -- teams would not be slushing through the early portion of their schedules -- in order to get an extra day of rest before the tournament begins. If we were to use this year's records, for example, Harvard and Northeastern would get the byes.
The other four schools would be drawn and put into a play-in round game, with the winners moving on to the semifinals to face the top two teams on the Commonwealth. The winners would then move on to the championship. The play-in losers would play for fifth, the semifinal losers would play for third, before the championship game plays on NESN or Comcast Sports Net the next night.
Revenue sharing would be the same.
Some of you may be wondering why would the schools do this, especially after the UMass-BC Commonwealth Classic games and BC-HC's rivalry ended? Those games did not include all six teams, nor did they encompass the entire state.
There is also the question of talent. BC, being in the ACC, has a little more national exposure. UMass is usually good, and Holy Cross is one of the best teams in the Patriot League, year in and year out (up until this year). Surely, BU, Northeastern and Harvard couldn't match up with them, right?
Not so fast.
Earlier this season, Harvard (17-6 entering tonight's game with Columbia) was able to hang tough with Georgetown and UConn before beating BC for the second year in a row. Northeastern, having played more games this season, has an 18-10 overall record and is 13-3 in the CAA. Boston University is 16-12, not far behind the Huskies.
On the flip side, BC is 13-13 after it defeated UNC earlier today. Holy Cross (7-19 entering tomorrow's game with American) and UMass (10-16 entering tomorrow's game with Saint Louis) are having down years.
To say that any team in Massachusetts has an edge over any of the other teams is absurd. It would make for a great tournament... and if we could convince the NCAA to give an automatic berth into the Big Dance for the winner, it would make it a marquee event in college hoops.
(Of course, that last part would never happen, but it would be nice to think about, right?)