As far as Tuesday news goes there isn't much out there and CB covered most of the relevant updates in his Spring Football Report: Practice #9 & Scrimmage Recap. So I figured, on the heels of last night's men's basketball final, we'd have a little #Off-season discussion.
Playoffs, man, we're talking about play-offs.
As you probably know by now #7 seed UCONN beat #8 seed Kentucky last night 60-54 to claim the 2013-2014 NCAA basketball national championship. First off, congrats to the Huskies on a fine tournament performance. On their way to the University's 4th championship, UCONN went on a near unprecedented run having to beat the likes of #1 seed Florida, #2 Villanova, #3 Iowa St., and #4 Michigan State. Impressive.
Now, if you follow basketball at all you'd know UCONN was certainly not the best basketball team during the regular season. UCONN finished the season 32-8 and 3rd in the American Conference. In fact, even though Kentucky started out the season #1, the Cat's limped into the SEC tournament un-ranked, loser of 3 out of four with bad, bad losses to South Carolina and Arkansas. Yet, in the NCAA tournament, Calipari was able to rally the troops and went on a run of their own beating #2 Wisconsin, #4 Louisville and #1 Wichita St.
Give both teams all the credit for doing what most thought improbable but after the dust settled I was left wondering, "Were UCONN and Kentucky really the best two teams in the country and did they really deserve a shot at the title?" UCONN is the undisputed national champion but they were ranked 21st leading up the conference tournaments. That doesn't sit well with me.
The question I'm really asking is does the NCAA basketball tournament, for all its madness, really decide who the best team is or does it simply decide who caught lightening in the bottle at the right time?
Think about it, teams can lose 8 and 11 games in a single season but still play for the title, yet Florida, who played in the same conference as Kentucky (and who also went undefeated in the SEC and won the conference tournament) went 32-2, yet was left with nothing. Again, that doesn't sit well with me. We all live and die by the 64 team playoff (yeah I said 64) but is it the best format?
Imagine if #21 Texas A&M, with a record of 8-4, won the BCS National Championship in 2013 or had Austin Peay State done the same in baseball. I think most people in their right mind would question a format that would allow a team who lost 33% of their games (A&M) to play for the national championship.
So, if the goal of a tournament is to decide who is #1, what format accomplishes this goal the best?
People hate the BCS formula, but in most cases, it pitted the best two teams in college football against each other. Certainly a team who wasn't even ranked would not be given a shot at the championship (And deservedly so). At least in college football, the regular season and conference title mean something. The new four team format continues the same goal as the BCS— take the top four teams that proved over the course of 12 games they deserved a shot at the title and decide who #1 is.
But this system isn't perfect. There's a human element involved in deciding the top four and you could have a situation where a two loss team (like LSU in 2007) gets a shot at the title over a team with a single loss.
What about the NFL? I'm not okay with the idea that a "wild card" team that went 10-6 is able to play against a team that went 16-0. 10-6 shouldn't even sniff the play-offs, let alone the Super Bowl.
I would say pro baseball and basketball have it right because once a team makes it to the post season they have to win a series just to make it to the next round. After-all, any team can win one game but taking three out of five or five out of seven is much harder.
College baseball seems to be the closest to the NBA and MLB format in that a team has to win a series to continue on to Omaha. Also, once in the World Series, the double elimination and best of three championship series at least allows for the better team to prove they are in-fact the best.
But just like in college basketball, the baseball regular season is largely a non-factor, where as in football the regular season plays a very large part in deciding a champion.
Play-offs give us more sports and drama, for which we are all grateful, but which play-off system has it right or do they all have it wrong?