“Well done, boys, now let’s move on to a system that works.”

Yum, tiddy bump de-dum… hey, what’s this?  Why, it’s another mindless “we just gotta have a big playoff” column!

… There’s no end of possible solutions. The top eight teams — or the top 16 — could meet in a single elimination tournament. Or maybe we should just start out with 164 teams at the start of the season and run the whole season that way. One loss and you’re out. Or maybe something else entirely. But whatever we do, there just has to be a better system than the one we’ve got now.

Rump de dump de bump… and here’s the best, Jerry, the best.

… Nowhere is the argument for playoffs made more forcefully than in the annual rite of spring know as “March Madness,” when the top 64 NCAA Division I schools do battle for the national championship.

To begin with, the tournament guarantees surprises. Every year, underdogs unload a greater or lesser number of surprises on the top-ranked schools. Most of us, when our favorite team is eliminated, end up rooting for a George Mason or a Gonzaga to defeat Duke or Kansas or whatever national powerhouse has dominated the headlines for an entire season. And oh, by the way, the NCAA and its member schools have made more money by tournament’s end than they ever did at the old National Invitation Tournament — at which a small number of teams — chosen by the tourney directors — played for the title. The drama at the Final Four is palpable.

Tiddy bum, tiddy bum, yump de do… that’s nice, but what about the regular season, dude?

Oh, that.

… The greatness of the college basketball tournament has a harsh fallout during the regular season. March Madness may not completely mute stunning upsets or statement wins in the regular season, but it surely tones them down.

The Vols went on the road and manhandled a legitimate top-five team, but all that ultimately will mean is the Vols will get say a No. 2 seed rather than a No. 3 in the NCAA tournament. Has anyone you know mentioned UT’s win in the last 72 hours? Thought so.

Now think about if that had been a road football win. If Saturday’s stunning performance had been in football — if the Vols had gone to, say, Gainesville or Tallahassee or Ann Arbor and beaten a top-five foe, then the buzz would have been felt from Gatlinburg to Lynchburg to South Pittsburg. It would have been the topic at Sunday school and at the Thursday night card game.

True, a part of that is this region’s unyielding passion for all things football, but it’s also a testament to the unrivaled importance of the regular season for college football. Especially compared to college hoops.

This is not to say that deciding a champion by bowl systems and computer-generated matchups is a better fundamental system than a playoff. It’s not. But as great as March Madness is, its huge and undeniable side effect is the marginalization of the regular season.

Feel the excitement!  It’s… palpable.  La de da de de, la de da de da…

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45 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

45 responses to ““Well done, boys, now let’s move on to a system that works.”

  1. gastr1

    Part of the lack of buzz issue re: Tennessee’s win over Pittsburgh, and similar games, is that basketball has a lot more games than football and everyone loses at least a few times, even in the early part of the season. A more convincing comparison might be when such an upset win occurs in a conference tournament at the end of the year. And, certainly, that kind of buzz happens in the tournament.

    • Regular Guy

      I would argue that’s not true re: conference tournaments. Usually when one of the top teams loses in their conference tournament, it’s looked at as “better to get the loss out of their system now than in the NCAA tournament”. It creates a lot buzz locally for the team that pulled off the upset, but not near to the extent that a major upset in college football does on a national level.

      • gastr1

        I guess that depends on what you mean by buzz. If you mean any kind of chatter and analysis, then “better to get the loss out of their system” counts as that, no? If you mean “they are ruined by this devastating loss,” and that’s all “buzz” means, then no, certainly that is not the case in basketball. Football games tend to be spaced farther apart, too, which is another reason buzz, whatever it is tends, to linger longer.

        • Regular Guy

          I guess by “buzz” I mean how much the game means, on both a local and national level. A loss in a conference tournament game in basketball has very little impact……….for the top teams, if they do well in their conference tourney, they likely get a 1 seed, if they don’t then they get a 2 seed……..but really, the path to the title isn’t that much more difficult either way. So nobody really gets too bothered on how much the games mean in the conference tourney, they’re just focused on the NCAA tourney, so i guess one COULD even argue that the NCAA tourney also devalues the conference tourneys! :)

          About the only teams that the conference tournaments matter to are the bubble teams………the mediocre ones that don’t have a shot at the national title anyway, so again the games really don’t mean that much on the large scale.

  2. Toom

    Senator,

    Basketball is a poor comparison. The NFL serves so much better. It exposes polls for what they are (everyone in the media has a power ranking but it eventually gets settled on the field), rewards exceptional play during the season, and provides an undisputed system by which we can crown a champion.

    I just can’t understand why you don’t see it this way.

    • You did notice that I quoted from two separate articles which made the comparison, right? Blame those folks, not me.

      By the way, the NFL “rewards exceptional play during the season, and provides an undisputed system by which we can crown a champion”? Just ask the 2007-8 New England Patriots about that. You do get more certainty, but there’s a tradeoff.

      • gastr1

        I really like how that one year is the one example everyone can (and does) conjure. I mean, really, doesn’t everyone want the occasional upset because it adds intrigue, makes it so that paper prognosticating is not always correct? And how occasional is the upset, anyway?

      • Stoopnagle

        What record is going to win the NFC West?

      • Dante

        I don’t get the Patriots argument. They went 16-0 in the regular season and were seeded accordingly. Then they won their playoff games and lost in the Super Bowl. I don’t see how this is any different than the loser of Oregon vs. Auburn who went 12-0 during the regular season but will lose the BCS Title Game.

        And FWIW, I like a 4+1 format if for no other reason than everyone who plays in the BCS Title game had to beat a good team somewhere along the way.

        • Well, for one thing, they played each other during the regular season and NE won convincingly. So they finished 1-1 against each other, NE had a much better overall record on the season, yet the Giants finished as world champs. Go figure.

          • Dante

            Playing each other in the regular season doesn’t preclude you from playing in the BCS Title Game. Suppose for example an undefeated Florida who beat a 1-loss FSU are the only teams with fewer than 2 losses. FSU then beats Florida in the BCS Title Game. Now you have two teams that have the same record and are 1-1 against each other. Why is FSU the BCS Champion while Florida is not or did your argument just disappear in a puff of logic?

            • Puffdawg

              I’m sorry, I was under the impression we were having this discussion with respect to a 6-loss Giants team that won the Superbowl…

              • Dante

                I’m sorry you thought that but I never mentioned the Giants and the good Senator only mentioned them in passing on this thread.

                But are you really complaining that a 10-win team won the Super Bowl? In a league of really real peers, a team went out there and took 10 wins out of 16. That’s fantastic. If you were to go pre-season and offer an NFL head coach the opportunity to get a guaranteed 10-6 or play their season out and see what happens, any coach would take the 10-6. The NFL isn’t college football. There are no creampuffs. Even the terrible teams are only marginally worse than the elite ones.

                Besides for all of the gnashing of teeth I see over the 10-6 2007 Giants winning a Super Bowl, I sure don’t hear much about how undeserving the 10-6 1988 49ers were or the 10-6 2008 Steelers were. We just hear it about the Giants who beat a team that trademarked 18-0 before the game was played. No, there was no joy in Mudville that year. We found out that the 10-6 team was just as good as the 18-0 team but we already had an idea that was the case when they played so close in the regular season.

                • Buffalo Bills

                  “Even the terrible teams are only marginally worse than the elite ones.”

                  That’s what we keep telling our season ticket holders.

            • And if that ever happens, you’ll have a point. ;)

        • Puffdawg

          The 2007 Patriots just prove that if you make a team play enough games, eventually they’ll have an off week and lose. That was probably one of the top 3 teams in the history of the NFL and yet they finished second behind a 6 loss team they had already beaten once. If ever there was an example for why extended playoffs are detrimental to the regular season, the 2007 New England Patriots are it.

      • Toom

        Right – I know that wasn’t your comparison – bball to fball – but my overall point is, other than SEC football, the greatest thing in sports right now is the NFL. If the powers-that-be really wanted to create a legitimate system, they could learn an awful lot by the best example we have out there. BTW, I called the Giants in that one.

        And the NFL conveniently exposes the strongest anti-playoff argument – that of this demeaning the regular season idea.

        It is an integrity issue. You simply must provide the opportunity up front that if you accomplish x, y, and z, this can be achieved. And if the reality is, I have no shot, then tell me that up front. The system we are under, promising results if writers perceive you as successful, is a joke worthy of satire.

        • And the NFL conveniently exposes the strongest anti-playoff argument – that of this demeaning the regular season idea.

          See, I don’t get this. Have you looked at the NFC West this season? Or the 8-8 San Diego Chargers team that made the playoffs two seasons ago? And how about the Colts’ decision to rest players at the end of the regular season?

          It’s all about tradeoffs, isn’t it? I understand the “we like finality” argument. How come you don’t understand my point of view?

          • Toom

            I do understand your point of view and we’re not talking about a system that’s flawed and a proposed system (NFL model) that would be perfect. And the NFC West is a disaster, for sure. NYG may get left out of playoffs while the Seahawks go, I understand the gripe. However, I liken that to an 8 team playoff system where the SEC champ gets automatic consideration (as to other big conference champs – but I’m trying to limit the scope of the discussion). While it may be true that the SEC #2 would beat the pants off the Big 10 #1, at LEAST you can say to the SEC #2, ‘look, you had a chance to win your conference and you didn’t do it.’

            I feel much better about a system where everyone has control over their own destiny and a team isn’t subject to hoping the preseason favorites lose so they get a seat at the table.

        • Hackerdog

          You simply must provide the opportunity up front that if you accomplish x, y, and z, this can be achieved.

          Let’s see. If you win 11 games, you’re in the playoffs, unless you’re the 2006 Patriots. If you only win 8 (or 7) games, you might make the playoffs as a wild card team, but you won’t host a home game against a team with a superior record, unless you play in the NFC West this year. So, in any one year, we don’t have a clue what record might make the playoffs, or get left out of the playoffs. But yeah, I see what you’re saying.

        • Puffdawg

          Toom,

          Couple of counterpoints for you…

          “You simply must provide the opportunity up front that if you accomplish x, y, and z, this can be achieved.”

          If you go undefeated, you absolutely WILL win your conference. I can promise you that. Anything beyond that is gravy. I can also promise that.

          The point is you guys are already starting to lose sight of what should be the core goals in college football (win conference, win division, beat rivals, go to good bowl). And we don’t even have a playoff yet. Imagine the paradigm shift if there ever was an extended playoff.

          “And if the reality is, I have no shot, then tell me that up front.”

          To Boise, TCU, et al: You have no shot before the season starts. You do not play a strong enough schedule to be considered equal to the SEC, PAC 10, et al. If you want a shot a some mythical national championship and that is your ultimate goal, by all means join a conference that will expedite your mission.

          You are so caught up in making sure everybody will be eligible for a national championship that will inevitably still be questionable with a playoff (see NFL), you’ve lost sight of the fact that there ALREADY EXISTS an “opportunity up front that if you accomplish x, y, and z, this can be achieved.” It is called a donference championship.

          • Toom

            Got it. That makes a lot of sense. and yes, I am one who gets hung up on fairness. Go with me on another analagy though. Kind of like Brookwood right now, or Chattahoochee. They won state championships, season over.

            What about a national championship?

            Well, that is a ridiculous notion, in my mind.

            The point is, that yes, college football was a regional game and this is why we have the bowl system. But it is NOT a regional game any longer and the post-season needs to reflect this. A conference championship isn’t enough! Any more than winning the NFC East would be a great accomplishment so let’s call it a day.

            • Puffdawg

              College football IS still regional. Teams from the southeastern United States play teams from the southeastern United States. Teams from the West play teams from the West. Intra-regional rivalry is just as strong today as it ever was. Why do we take more pride in beating Clemson than Ariz St? Why is that? Because Clemson is in our backyard. Their alumni work with us and drive around in our towns with their bumper stickers. Rarely do we see intersectional matchups, but when we do, they’re fun for a week until we get back into conference play the next week.

              • Toom

                Agree with most of it. Here’s where I disagree. While a true regional construct like my high school football example would simply not lend itself to anything being settled on a national level, the fact that the market (fans) DEMANDS a crowned national champion says the sport has grown beyond the regional.

  3. Normaltown Mike

    I heard David Johnston on 960 the Ref suggest something reasonable (and maybe this has been bandied about before, I just haven’t heard it) that preserves the bowls and provides some amount of playoff:
    -Final 4 BCS teams meet at home of higher seeds in mid December for a semifinal, winners go to the BCSCG, bowls pick up all the remaining teams as usual.
    -The reason to play the semi’s on campus is facing up to the reality that the bowls are huge marketing bonanza’s for towns/corps and they lose the ability to make money if fans are trudging to multiple bowls.
    -IMHO 4 is the max you want to play b/c it is so rare that any team outside of the top 4 has put together a season that ought to be rewarded with a chance at the MNC.

  4. heyberto

    Why is there an acceleration of this topic all of a sudden? Does anyone really think they didn’t get #1 and #2 right (TCU fans excluded, of course)?

    • gastr1

      (with apologies to the Senator, who does such an exceptional job of finding things to sustain us each and every day)

      Everyone hum along now:
      It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
      Everywhere you go
      Look at the CNN and o, the blogs all writing again
      With little else to sustain their mojo

      It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
      Bowls in every state
      But the prettiest sight to see is the game that’ll al’ays be
      Play’d in great debate

  5. hassan

    Has anyone been following all the drama and excitement of the FCS playoffs?

    Yeah…neither have I.

    • Hackerdog

      Well, the Georgia Southern Eagles, who finished 3rd in their conference, just beat the conference champs, who they lost to in the regular season, to advance to the semi-final.

      As the playoff proponents always say, “Games in December count for a lot more than games in October.”

  6. Brandon

    I think the playoff push comes mostly from casual fans of the sport who only want to have to pay attention for a few weeks of the year like you can with all of the other sports. Everybody pisses and moans about teams deserving to be in the BCS title game but when you expand the playoff all you do is shift the pissing and moaning to who should have been included in the 16, 32, or 64 team field that wasn’t. If you’re going to have a playoff I half way agree with the one guy, just do away with the regular season entirely and start off with a playoff that everybody is in. Eventually the playoffphiles will prevail but it will be a sad sad day when Ohio State is resting players against Michigan, or when we don’t stay up half the night to see if Oregan State can take down USC on a Thursday night and ruin their season.

    • gastr1

      I think the playoff push comes from people who have to write about something during a dead time in the sport but still get clicks.

    • DawgPhan

      So much win in that post….staying up to watch a meaningless BSU/Nevada match up after thanksgiving is what makes college football special.

      • Brandon

        Not meaningless, it was a forfeiture of BSU’s right to b#$%h that they should have been in the championship game. I for one appreciate not having to hear that all year.

        • DawgPhan

          Meaningless might not have been the right term, but a late night BSU game would never be at the top of my list to watch unless there was some bearing in the title picture, there was so I watched. With a playoff that game doesnt have the same draw. None of the west coast games really have that draw without the “every game playoff” system we have now.