Last week, the Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune’s columnist Mark Lazerus tracked down the Horizon League’s contingency plan in case the Milwaukee Panthers won the conference regular season championship and hosting rights to the Horizon League Tournament.
Should the Milwaukee Panthers win the conference regular season title, the quarterfinals and semi-finals would then defer to the #2 seed. Today, PantherU has learned from the Horizon League that the decision was made by the athletic directors of the 10 conference member institutions.
Obviously there is a conflict of interest here. The Horizon League Tournament is set up for the #1 seed to have the easiest road to the NCAA Tournament, with a double-bye to the semifinals and a partial home crowd for the semi-finals and finals.
Therefore, it is in the best interest of the #2 through #10 seeds in the conference tournament to mitigate that advantage whenever they get the chance. That chance presented itself when Disney on Ice booked the U.S. Cellular Arena during the quarterfinals and semi-finals. The theory is that even though the #2 seed is also formidable, they didn’t do as well as the #1 seed in the regular season and thus might be an “easier out” at home than the #1 seed.
Should Milwaukee win the conference regular season by putting up the best record over an 18-game season, they will have to play the semi-finals in the #2 seed’s arena. Just as the athletic directors of the 2-10 seeds smelled blood in the water with the Disney on Ice debacle, the #2 seed’s fans will stay and root hard for the team playing Milwaukee. The reason is that if Milwaukee is the #1 seed and loses in the semifinals in front of an extremely hostile crowd, the hosting rights for the championship game defer to the highest remaining seed.
By now as you already know, the U.S. Cellular Arena is booked by Disney on Ice on the dates of the tournament’s quarterfinals and semifinals. This is the first time this has ever happened and is a major problem, as losing the gate for a semifinal would be leaving a lot of money on the table for the athletic department that needs every single dollar it can get.
Far more important, though, is losing the home court advantage afforded to the #1 seed by the Horizon League Tournament format. Should the conference tournament be at a site besides a #1 Milwaukee, not only would the Panthers have to play the semifinals on the road, they’d have to do it in front of a crowd that would be overwhelmingly in support of their semifinal opponent.
If I had the decision to make, it would be no decision – the answer is obviously hosting the conference quarterfinals and semifinals at the Klotsche Center on campus. Not only do we retain the home court advantage, it may be even more so as instead of playing in the cavernous Cell the team would be taking the court in the can of sardines that is the KC.
The Klotsche Center’s capacity is about 4,000, which is smaller than the reported “capacity rule” size of 5,000. Then again, so is Loyola’s Gentile Arena, and Valparaiso is kidding everyone by listing capacity of the ARC at 5,000 on the nose. So if those two schools can host the conference tournament, why can’t the Panthers do it on campus at their former home? It’s not like Milwaukee would be hosting the championship at the Klotsche Center, it would only be a semi-final game where not too many people would be turned away at the gate. Besides, it creates a tough ticket which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Attempts to contact Rick Costello were not immediately answered, and we’ll post his response as soon as we can get a hold of him.