I know some of you probably groan internally when you see another BCS post at GTP, but really, what am I supposed to do when I see this posted at EDSBS?
Gosh, Seth, when you put it that brilliantly, obviously I don’t get the spiritual fulfillment that comes from filling out brackets as so many other people like yourself do.
Then again, I suspect you don’t have a clue as to what drives folks all over the Southeast to fill college football stadiums with more people then you’ll see in any arena hosting the first round of the basketball tourney… to watch spring exhibition football scrimmages. So we’re even on that score.
Don’t get me wrong here. I enjoy March Madness – how could you not? But I simply don’t understand the romanticism of football playoff proponents for it.
This past weekend gave me reason No. 1,394,020 to quit filling out brackets: I love seeing the mid-majors win. Instead of cheering Northern Iowa, all I could think was this — I have Kansas winning it all! Many of you probably went through the same — indeed 42.7 percent of the 4.78 million brackets filled out on ESPN.com had Kansas as the national champion (including the bracket of President Barack “Chalk” Obama).
But is also reason No. 1,394,020 why the NCAA basketball tournament trumps what college football calls a postseason.
Anybody can win.
Aw, that’s so cute. Wrong, but cute. A number one seed has never lost in the first round. A number two seed has lost only four times in the first round. Here’s Wikipedia’s breakdown of how low seeds have done in the tournament since it expanded to 64 schools:
Lowest seeds to reach each round since expansion to 64 teams in 1985:
- Second Round: #15 seed (4 times)
- Regional Semifinals (Sweet Sixteen): #14 seed (2 times):
- Regional Finals (Elite Eight): #12 seed:
- National Semifinals (Final Four): #11 seed:
- National Finals (Championship Game): #8 seed:
- National Champion: #8 seed:
Notice that, aside from George Mason’s improbable run in 2006, the trend has clearly been running against the lower seeds showing up for the semifinals and the quarterfinals. So, no, not everybody can win. Cinderella gets to dance early, but she doesn’t get to stay for the main event. Which is what you’d expect in a multi-round, single-elimination format tournament. How’s that different from “any given Saturday” in college football?
… While I realize college basketball and college football are different sports, with different politics involved and a different way of doing business, it is still refreshing to see “non-BCS schools” beating the big boys. Especially with all the fighting teams like TCU and Boise St. have had to do to gain respect — and a seat at the table – in college football.
If the powers that be in college football had their way, those mid-majors would be locked out of any BCS/playoff system. They are embraced in college basketball and shunned in college football. The only way this would change in football, of course, is with a playoff that involves automatic bids for all 11 conferences. Right now, we have no way of knowing whether the Sun Belt champion could take down UF or Alabama. Nobody thought Northern Iowa would win, right?
Because of the playoff label. (By the way, we do know whether the Sun Belt champ could take down Florida. The Gators beat Troy by 50 last season.)
This is what the debate comes down to, in my opinion. Does the Cinderella factor enhance the postseason experience such that it validates its winner to a greater extent than the BCS currently does? A lot of people would say unquestionably that it does.
Matt Hinton, who makes no bones about being a playoff proponent, acknowledges that there’s more of a fine line that college football should walk. Here’s his counter to Adelson’s Cinderella-love:
… With the thrill of the unexpected, though, comes the unavoidable tradeoff of a certain kind of justice for obviously superior teams — such as, say, Kansas, which defeated rival Kansas State three times en route to the Big 12’s regular season and tournament championships, only to watch the Wildcats move closer to the national championship because their inexplicable lapse against an inferior opponent came at a more convenient time in the season — whose otherwise brilliant campaigns can go up in a blink. (The classic football example is the 2007 Patriots, arguably the greatest team in NFL history, whose perfect season was extinguished by a six-loss team that not only lost to New England in the regular season but finished three full games behind the champion of its own division.) For all the BCS’ faults, producing an “unworthy” champion has never been one of them, as opposed to the occasional Villanova, N.C. State and Arizona in the basketball tournament; the Series’ sins have always been at the opposite end, of leaving obviously worthy contenders out of the mix rather than letting stragglers in. But the impulse to prevent a “hot” team from watering down the stakes in the regular season is the only valid argument the status quo has going for it.
I can’t argue too much with that, although I think maintaining the value of a conference championship is a worthy goal for whatever postseason format college football adopts. I don’t disagree with this point, either:
There is a middle ground between those competing poles that recognizes that a playoff should be open enough to allow all worthy contenders, restrictive enough to exclude the riffraff, and designed with the goal of producing a champion that has inherently produced the best season by virtue of winning the playoff…
Sure ’nuff, but the devil’s in the details. Matt saves that for another day, but I’ve got to say that his giving a nod to Dan Wetzel’s 16-team playoff proposal as a possible solution doesn’t convince me that he’s on the side of the angels with this. If his standard is that middle ground, shouldn’t any realistic evaluation of the best postseason format start with a historical analysis of how many teams on average are worthy of being considered national title contenders at regular season’s end? I’m not sure of too many things in this life, but I’ll bet the ranch that whatever that average number is, it’s a helluva lot less than sixteen.
UPDATE: Elkon combines disassembling the “anybody can win” talk with some choice Mandel smack. What’s not to like?
UPDATE #2: Year2 adds some kinder, gentler, don’t-go-there thoughts.