The Marty Smith Podcast: Jimmy Dykes Tells Marty Why NCAA Conference Tournaments ‘Don’t Matter’

by TK Sanders

Basketball commentator and personality Jimmy Dykes recently joined Outsider’s Marty Smith and Wes Blankenship for a conversation surrounding all things NCAA March Madness. Dykes has called thousands of college basketball games for ESPN and its affiliate networks since joining the company in 1995. He also served as the women’s head basketball coach at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas, from 2014-2017, gaining one NCAA tournament appearance.

Because of his deep roots in the SEC, Dykes has established himself as an expert in college basketball, especially the angle of how conferences fit into the whole of the NCAA and its greater goals. When it comes to the NCAA basketball tournament, Dykes said that the conference tournaments — while exciting for fans — simply do not matter in the big scheme of things for the Big Dance.

“Time and time again, Marty, we hear that the [final conference tournament games] on Sunday don’t matter,” Dykes said. “Unless there’s an upset, like if A&M had won and become automatic qualifiers, that bracket is set; maybe as early as Friday.”

Dykes insinuated that the NCAA tournament committee only uses conference tournaments to help establish seeding and scheduling.

“[The committee] just uses the results to move teams around based upon location and those kinds of things,” he continued. “You know Joe Lunardi spoke to this last night. And he’s studied this thing a lot more than I have in terms of ‘bracketology;’ he said those Sunday games don’t matter.”

Jimmy Dykes said that the current NCAA postseason feels ‘broken’ in some ways

Dykes also noted that teams trying to climb the ladder of seeding in the conference tournament also face obstacles form the committee.

“There’s a real fairness problem with Tennessee this year,” Dykes pointed out. “It looked like they were pigeonholed on a three seed since the first time the committee released their top 16 teams. That’s where Tennessee was, and they did not move. It didn’t matter how many games they won, or that they ran right through that SEC tournament for their championship. They were a three seed whether they won or lost.”

Dykes finished the thought by pointing out that the Vols could’ve conceivably just lost in the first round and taken the rest days, instead of making a strenuous push for the SEC title.

“They could have lost their opening game and probably been in the exact same spot they are now,” Dykes said. “There’s something, timing-wise, broken in the system when that occurs.”

Many basketball fans believed Texas A&M’s heroic push into the finals of the tournament would have earned them a place in the Big Dance, given their passing of the “eye test” late in the season. But the Aggies didn’t make the cut, and the Vols didn’t earn a two seed based on their performance, leading many to wonder why they played the game at all.

You can listen to the full episode of The Marty Smith Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.