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Change coming to MAC basketball tournaments?

After the Mid-American Conference athletic directors met this past week, the hot topic of discussion seems to be the potential changes to the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments.

Count me as one of the people who wants to see a few drastic changes. But you don’t want to hear from me, at least not yet.

This morning, I talked with Northern Illinois women’s basketball coach Carol Owens about this topic. Owens’ main concern is the format of the tournament and making sure that all 12 women’s teams remain involved.

Since 2007, the MAC has brought all 24 of its basketball teams to Cleveland for the conference tournaments.

“Obviously it is an issue and it’s important,” Owens said. “Our format for the past couple of years, especially the schools that have been at a distance like NIU, Buffalo and Ball State. We have to do some things that have to factor in those schools.”

In 2007, the NIU women made a run out of the first round to the tournament semifinals and had to play on a Sunday, a Tuesday and then didn’t play again until Friday. The Ohio women went through a similar run the next season.

This season, the women’s quarterfinals started at 9 a.m. Eastern (seriously, who thought that was a good idea?) on a Friday.

“It’s hard to get fans to come to those games,” Owens said. “Those are some of the concerns. Hopefully by mid-summer this will all get resolved. I just want what’s best for the conference.”

So what are the solutions?

Doug Zaleski of the Muncie Star Press writes that Toledo, home of the Lucas County Arena, which seats 8,000, is an option as a new location for the women's tournament. Another option would be to move the women’s tournament up a week, or cut down the number of teams that make the tournament from 12 to eight.

If the MAC is set on keeping the finals of the women’s tournament in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena, one option might be putting the first round games and possibly the quarterfinals at campus sites.

“My first year that I was at NIU [2005-06], we did the first round with higher seeds at campus sites, which seems to work out pretty well,” Owens said. “I know that our stance as coaches is that we want to continue to have all 12 teams in the tournament.”

As for the possibility of moving the location of the women’s tournament, this is what Owens had to say.

“That’s been thrown out there,” she said. “I don’t know the possibility of that. I think at this point, anything’s possible. If that gives us a better format, and the teams are better off with it that would be fine. I think the biggest concern for me is that all 12 teams go.”

While all 12 men’s and women’s teams in Cleveland is a nice gesture and a great opportunity to all of players, it’s a scheduling nightmare.

“The practice times are short because of everything that goes on at [Quicken Loans Arena],” Owens said. “The times weren’t ideal for the teams.”

My take: I’ve got no problem with the women’s tournament moving to another site to allow the format of both tournaments to change.

If you want the women to stay with the men in Cleveland, I see no choice but move the women’s tournament up by a week. Do a Thursday-Sunday format and no game starts before 11 a.m. The same Thursday-Sunday format goes the men.

Those are my thoughts for now. What do you think? What should be the format for both tournaments?

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