In less than a week, one of the four remaining teams in the NCAA tournament is going to be called the National Champion for the 2011 men’s basketball season. You may as well prepare for it now because either UConn, Kentucky, Butler, or VCU fans will have an infomercial running for the next six weeks encouraging them to pick up their championship gear.
Think about the following. Our national champion is either going to be: a three seed that was exactly average in its conference, going 9-9 good for a 9th place finish; a four seed that failed to win its conference division, lost six out of 16 games in conference, and dropped games to two 7-9 teams; an eight seed that lost nine games including ones to a team that went 2-16 in conference and another that went 16-16; or an 11 seed that lost 11 games including ones to a 3-15 team, and two 6-12 teams.
At this point you may think that I’m selectively picking out the flaws on the resume of these teams but that’s part of the point; a national champion should have very few flaws because it earned its way to the title game based on excellence throughout the regular season.
Ask yourself these questions: Is winning your conference or playing well throughout the year no longer important? Does it even matter what you’ve done during the season or only what you do in one single-game elimination tournament? Do you care that the team that will go down as a national champion does not even have to be more than an average team from its conference?
What you have to do is recognize that the college basketball season is meaningless and that the NCAA tournament only gives us a tournament champion, not the true best team in college basketball. In reality, it does the poorest job of all the sports yielding the best team each season.
Sports fans love to rip on the BCS, but at least that ensures one of the best teams in the sport will win the national title every year. It may not be all-inclusive like the college basketball tournament, but its exclusivity rewards excellence during a four-month season, not superiority over a six-game stretch.
Just so you don’t get the message wrong, you must understand I don’t have anything against the schools personally. My problem is that Ohio State and Kansas only lost twice throughout the season but are at home because they fell in the tournament. My problem is that Duke only lost four times all year and is now viewed as a failure, as is Pitt which only lost five times. Those four teams were the best in college basketball and should have been the ones playing for a national championship.
Rather than turn the final four into a pair of three-game series and excluding everyone else, why not make it a double-elimination tournament where the teams that earned their spots the most can have a second chance to prove how good they are?
The NBA playoffs yield the best team in the league because you have to beat your opponent four times in order to advance, and you can’t luck your way into four wins out of seven. The College World Series is a double-elimination tournament that used to play a single championship game to determine the winner for TV purposes. They realized how unfair it was to determine a champion that way and switched to a best of three series. The more games there are between teams, the more you ensure the best team advances, but unfortunately we’re only seeking thrills, not rewarding deserving teams.
I could come up with plenty of ways to construct a tournament that would help yield a more deserving champion but I know that’s not what people want. Nobody wants to limit the field to fewer teams that have actually earned the right to play for a national title. Nobody wants a double-elimination tournament because you can’t fit that on one bracket sheet.
I know I’m in the minority with this opinion because most folks love the tournament and find the madness to be extremely enjoyable and entertaining, but as a true sports fan I feel like the tournament completely cheapens the season.
I’ll watch the Final Four games because that’s part of what we do here at LBS. Sadly, I won’t have complete satisfaction knowing that the best teams from the season are sitting at home because of a flawed tournament structure.Google+