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UConn Losing to Notre Dame Shows Flaw in Single-Elimination Tournament

UConn was upset by Notre Dame on Sunday in the women’s college basketball Final Four losing 72-63. The shocker means Notre Dame will move on to play Texas A&M in the finals which also had a big upset, knocking off Stanford earlier in the day. Coach Geno Auriemma was hard on his team after the loss which was understandable considering the Huskies lost to an inferior opponent. And therein lies the problem.

In case you don’t follow women’s college basketball too much, Sunday’s Final Four meeting marked the fourth time Notre Dame and UConn faced each other during the season. UConn was 36-1 entering the game with their only loss coming to Stanford, meaning they had beaten the Irish three times earlier in the year. In their first meeting on January 8th, UConn won 79-76, their second meeting was February 19th and UConn won 78-57, and they met in the finals of the Big East tournament where UConn won 73-64.

On Sunday, in the fourth meeting between the teams, Notre Dame finally won. And for beating UConn once out of four times, they get to play for the national championship and UConn doesn’t.

I ask you, does that seem fair? Or more importantly, do you feel like the best team will be playing for the title on Tuesday? If you say “yes”, you must be a Notre Dame fan because the scoreboard doesn’t lie. Yes Notre Dame was better on Sunday, but UConn proved they were better over the course of the season.

Doesn’t it strike you as a flawed system to allow a team that is 1-3 against a 36-2 team to play for the title? This is a concept I wrote about at length last week when I argued that Butler or UConn don’t deserve to be the national champion in college hoops, and I stand by that. On the exact same note, Georgetown had beaten Villanova twice in the regular season before losing to them in the ’85 title game, and the same goes for ’88 Oklahoma against Kansas.

It’s too late to go back in time to help those teams, but why not make it right for the future? I will continue to argue in favor of a double-elimination tournament to help ensure the best teams advance in the tournament, and I would want the championship teams to play a best of three series. I know I’m in the minority here, but I think it’s the most fair system we could have. Think about it: on any given night, anything can happen on the court — even the Cavs beat the Heat. But that doesn’t mean the teams pulling the upsets are the best in the sport, and that is the problem with single-elimination tournaments.



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  • Anonymous

    You wanna win a championship, can’t take a night off. The two teams who manage to be their best in every tourney game are there at the end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kjtracy Kevin Tracy

    I was thrilled watching ND beat UConn. However, in the interest of fairness, I think you’re right. There really should be at least a Best of 3 series for every match up. Again, as a Notre Dame fan, I loved it. However, if your interest is in seeing the best teams move forward, single elimination doesn’t cut it.

    On the other hand, double elimination or any other fix will potentially complicate the bracket process, which is a multi-million dollar economic engine. You’re also talking about extending the season considerably more than most higher end schools simply wouldn’t be able to tolerate academically. Plus, as SpinMax said, you can’t take a night off and still hope to win now.

    Congratulations to the Notre Dame women for making it to the national championship! I can’t wait to watch!

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Thanks for the comment Kevin. In my last piece on the matter, I mentioned the issue that a double-elimination tournament would screw with the bracket process which would pretty much wreck the fun in March Madness, but it would be the most fair process.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Doesn’t give us the best teams though which is my point. Why is it OK for Notre Dame to lose the other three times they played and win only one?

  • Anonymous

    when you get into double elimination nonsense you enter the soccer world. where you can play your way into a championship game, lose 1-0, yet still be crowded the champions because you accrued more points over the season. no fun