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Conference tournament to change for the WAC?

The WAC is looking over a proposal that would utilize double-byes to place the conference tournament's top two seeds automatically in the semifinals, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

The new plan would match seeds No. 5 vs. No. 8 and No. 6 vs. No. 7 in the first round. Then, the winners would play seeds No. 3 and No. 4 in the second round. Those winners would be matched against Nos. 1 and 2 in the semifinals.

Proponents say the proposal gives more value to the regular season standings and helps preserve the top teams' Ratings Percentage Index. In addition, it gives the lower teams an opportunity to pick up a victory by playing low-seeded competition early.

Sure, those are the positives for enacting such a change, and WAC powerhouse Utah State must be drooling at the very thought of consolidating its power. But is a slight boost in RPI worth making the playing field uneven?

In the West Coast Conference, which currently uses that exact system, questions have been raised about whether it benefits the top seeds -- Gonzaga, specifically -- a little too much. After all, the No. 7 and 8 seeds would have to win four straight games to get an automatic bid to the Big Dance.

If you think that's impossible, Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle explored the issue in March and found that no No. 6, 7 or 8 seed has ever even reached the semifinal of the WCC tournament.

In short, while the game isn't rigged in a Tim Donaghy kind of way, it is loaded so heavily toward the top two teams, in the hopes of getting a second invitation to the NCAA Tournament, that teams three through eight are eliminated more surely than they are in any other league.

And since this is now close to becoming a three-team league, with Portland as the third to join Gonzaga and St. Mary's, it may be time to review whether the double-bye is working for or against the conference.

So if you're a league that has one or two teams constantly fighting its way off the bubble despite great records (Utah State!), this format is for you.

But with the rise of the mid-majors, who's to say the double-bye wouldn't quickly be outdated if the WAC ever wanted to get three or maybe even four teams in the NCAA tournament like the Mountain West did this year?

Just look at New Mexico State, which pulled the upset on Utah State in this year's title game and had its chances to knock off Michigan State in the first round of the NCAAs. NMSU had the No. 2 seed in the tournament based on a tiebreaker with Nevada, and a No. 3 seed in the new format would have had to win an extra game for the right to go dancing.

The WAC tournament moves to Las Vegas in 2010, but during champ week, shouldn't more be left up to chance?