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?
… 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…