It’s the new college football playoff meme! We extended playoff doubters – we’re just a bunch of heartless bastards when we insist that we don’t want the best regular season in organized sports to be unduly diminished. Because our game really is to badmouth the college basketball regular season. Oh, the humanity.
Which gets me to this exercise in dishonesty.
It’s a trite cry from college football tradition-mongers – “You can’t put a playoff in; then the regular season will be meaningless, like college basketball.” The problem is, these people know nothing about basketball. There are plenty of reasons to like regular season NCAA hoops, just ask Eli Kaberon.
Eli, old pal, nobody is saying that the college basketball regular season is meaningless… just that it serves a different purpose than does the D-1 football regular season. And I know you understand that because in your own piece you admit it.
… Despite the differences in how they determine a champion, the games played in the regular season are important in both college basketball as well as football. The 25 or so contests that each school plays before March help their position in the tournament, both in terms of seed and location. Regular season action also prepares a team for the postseason schedule and the different styles of play they may see. And, of course, the regular season games give fans a better chance to understand a squad’s strengths and weaknesses – which helps us fill out our tournament brackets in March.
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. March Madness is a lot of fun. I just don’t want it as the model for D-1 football.
Here’s where the train really goes off the tracks:
… Because college basketball actually has a post-season that crowns the best team on the court – as opposed to the best teams in the polls – the regular season is used to organize and evaluate who the best teams are. This translates to the seeding for the tournament, as well as the location of the games played.
College basketball crowns the winner of a six game, single elimination tourney. Is that school “the best team on the court”? For the tourney, sure. For the season? Maybe, maybe not.
And as for that “best team in the polls” tripe, Eli, the NCAA is using subjective evaluation (polls, RPI, etc.) to determine seeding and locations, as you acknowledge. Don’t you think that has more than a little impact on a given school’s chances to succeed in the tournament? To torture an analogy here, you can’t be a little bit pregnant. Once you let subjective analysis have a part in deciding who gets in, where they play and who they play, you’ve reduced the argument to how wide you want to cast the net. Why is this approach acceptable for sixty four teams but not for two?
Again, the crux of the debate for me is how much are you willing to devalue the results of the regular season with a playoff.
If you don’t see a problem with a system like the NFL’s that could see a six loss team being crowned “the best” by upsetting an undefeated team going through an historic run (with a QB that’s just been put in a walking cast, by the way), fine. If a mediocrity like an 83 win St. Louis Cardinal team winning a World Series rings your bell, great. If momentary Cinderellas are more important to you than sustained excellence, enjoy March Madness.
Just admit there’s a tradeoff. And don’t tell me I’m the bad guy for pointing that out.
UPDATE: More BS here. Does anybody notice how playoff proponents like to argue both sides of the money issue? Either there’s more money from a playoff or not – which is it, guys?