Guess what day it is
Jan 01, 2014
The 2013 What-If College Football Tournament
Dec 08, 2013
Oscars running blog, 2013
Feb 24, 2013
The What-If NCAA football Tourney, 2012
Dec 02, 2012
Road Trip, day ten
Mar 15, 2012
The All New BCS of Hoops!!
So back in December I presented my "What If" college football tournament. I got criticism from one college football fan, saying a tournament would ruin the special nature of college football. I mean who needs giving mid-majors a fair shot and deciding a champion by playing games instead of using a computer program and rankings based largely on pre-season expectations and historical biases. I have to say, the anti-tourny faction has a point. The fun and excitement of a one-and-done big dance has nothing on a month-long extravaganza of pointless exhibition games named after any company that can shell out the cash. So in that spirit, I say screw the big dance in college basketball. Here we go with the "What-if BCS of Basketball."
So on to my methodology. Much like in footballís BCS, the champions of the majors conferences get into the BCS Bowls, so congrats to the champions of the SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, ACC, and WCC. I guess since there are more D-I hoops programs than football programs we can admit two more conferences to the pantheon on the majors, so welcome to the fold Conference USA and the MVC. The Big XII can go screw itself until they get a team not named Kansas that can compete once in a while. For teams not in one of those conferences, they must get to #15 in the polls to even get a shot at the big money. And since no one in this bizarro world wants the fun and excitement tournaments can bring, letís just assume the conference tournaments donít happen.
In the national championship we have UNC vs. UCLA. The Tar-Heels are a lock here, the consensus #1 in all the polls, but the AP has Memphis at #2, while the ESPN/ USA Today poll favors UCLA. The ESPN Power 16 goes with UCLA so the Bruins win out. Now, since without a tournament, we place more emphasis on the sacred regular season, UCLA would have earned their spot with their regular season finale which would have been really exciting. Oh wait, it was really exciting anyway. Do you think the Tigers are better? Well, the beauty of system is that people will argue about it, and even if 95% of them say that the system is a mess and needs to be scrapped, itís still publicity.
So what happens to Memphis? Well they get shipped off to the Granddaddy of them all, the Rite-Aid Bowl in LA to face Big Ten champ Wisconsin. Do you think the one-loss Memphis Tigers should have a shot at a national title? Well, they donít get one. They lost that honor when they lost to second ranked Tennessee. Now without a tournament, the regular season means something, so that game would have been a lot more exciting. Oh wait, it was really exciting to begin with. Never mind.
With the ACC champ in the title game, the Commandante Brand Cuban Cigars Bowl in Miami, FL pits the SEC champ Tennessee against Gonzaga out of the WCC. Now remember, conference tournaments donít exist in this world, so the feel-good Cinderella run of San Diego in the WCC tourney never happened. The BCS frowns upon feel-good Cinderellas. Now, why take the Zags instead of a team like Georgetown or Duke? Gonzaga "travels well" and that is far more important than who happens to be the better team.
Speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils get to go to the Michael Brown Helluva Job Bowl in New Orleans where they shall face the upstart Kansas Jayhawks. Now sure, maybe if we had a tournament, Rock Chalk would get a shot at the national title, but here we canít have these small conference teams crashing the party, so we give them a nice pat on the head and shuffle them off to a game no oneís gonna care about.
In the Velvetta Cheese-Type Product Bowl in Tucson, the MVC Champ Drake gets to face Georgetown. Being the champion of a major conference has its privileges, even if you are Drake. Sure, they are a good team, and sure, they are nationally ranked and won one of the oldest conferences in the nation, but they arenít really a traditional power, and thatís all that matters in the BCS, so they are the last team selected.
We get two at-large picks in our final BCS Bowl, the Elliot Spitzer Bowl on Dort Hwy in Flint, as Stanford faces Xavier. Now sure, Texas is ranked ahead of both of those teams, but they are the second team in a smaller conference, so screw Ďem. It was like pulling teeth getting the BCS committee to take Kansas. Besides, maybe a lot of Xavier fans will buy tickets under the mistaken impression that Brad Redford is in a Musketeers uniform this year.
Texas can play in one of the 138 other, lesser bowl games, like the Bicycle Playing Cards Bowl in Cincinnati or the Beef-A-Roo Bowl at Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee. They shouldnít be sad. A lot of good teams will be playing in those games no one cares about, which have been around for about two years, but weíll keep claiming they have history as a way of defending the system as a whole. Those teams include 28-3 Butler, certainly a good draw for the Kingsford Charcoal Bowl in Iron Mountain to be played on the same day as the Elliot Spitzer Bowl, so as to give both teams the impression that it means something. Also invited to one of these post season exhibitions is Florida, the defending national champ that kinda sucked this year, but hey, they are a big name team from a big name conference, and they had a winning record so they get to play.
Now see how easy it is? We donít need some fancy tournament which has given us some of the most exciting moments in sports in the past 30 years. We can use computers to choose a champion! If itís good enough for football, why not hoops as well? And instead of just one champion getting to hang a banner in the rafters, we get over a hundred. Sure, as it is now a team with hang a banner if they, say, make the sweet 16, and let recruits see it and remember back to that three at the buzzer in the second round, but wouldnít it be so much better for everyone if they could just hang a "2008 NyQuil Bowl Champs" banner instead?
Plus, these athletes really need to study.
Problem 1: The West Coast Conference is NOT a major conference.
At best, the WCC is a mid-major conference that happens to feature a high-major team (Gonzaga). Before Gonzaga, it was Pepperdine, and before Pepperdine, it was Loyola Marymount. Point being, the WCC rarely has more than one decent team at a time. It can't even afford its own web domain!
So what about Saint Mary's and San Diego? What about them? Sure, they'll both get into the field of 65 this year -- when you let 65 teams in, it's hard to be choosy. Add in Gonzaga, and that's three teams, right? Yes, and it would be the first time in conference history that more than two WCC teams have qualified for the NCAA in the same year -- and it's only because both Gonzaga and Saint Mary's lost in their conference tournament to a lucky San Diego team that wouldn't have qualified without winning the tourney title.
Oh, and final dig: The West Coast Conference was formed in 1952. How many WCC teams have made the Final Four, ever? Three: San Francisco's 1955, 1956 & 1957 teams. It's been over fifty years since the WCC could be considered "major".
Problem 1b: The Big XII is a major conference.
For some reason, coldcat thinks Kansas is the only Big XII team "that can compete once in a while" -- and that's despite name-checking Texas in the same article! (P.S. twelve isn't "smaller" than ten.) For the record, the last Big XII team to make the Final Four was not named Kansas, or even from Kansas -- it was Oklahoma State, in 2004. The year before, Big XII teams made up half the Final Four (Kansas, Texas), and the year before that, both Kansas and Oklahoma made the Final Four.
That said, tourney success shouldn't be the measure of whether a conference is major, mid-major, minor, or rec league. You can only succeed in the tournament if you get an invitation, right? So let's use attendance figures.
So which seven conferences have led the NCAA in both total and average attendance over the last three years? Let's see -- Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big East... oh, look, it's the Big XII!... Pac-10, and the Mountain West Conference. Those seven, every year, for three... no, make that four... years straight, have led the NCAA. And in 2003? Well, that's when Conference USA was still relevant. By the way, the Big XII was in fourth place that year -- and sent two teams to the Final Four. I know I already pointed that out, but I didn't want you to forget while you were trying to figure out where the WCC ranked in attendance. Hint: it's listed as "West Coast," and it's listed after "Mid-American".
Problem 2: You can't invite the Conference USA and Missouri Valley Conference champions as "majors" without inviting the Mountain West Conference and Western Athletic Conference champions.
See Problem 1b. The MWC has been in the top seven conferences in attendance and regularly fields two or three NCAA tourney teams every year since its inception in 1999. Yes, two of those teams are usually named "BYU" and "UNLV", but it's no different from the ACC, where two of those teams are usually named "UNC" and "Duke". The WAC also regularly fields two NCAA tourney teams -- despite losing half of its teams to the MWC!
Okay, maybe you could get away with C-USA based on its history. They had 14 teams once upon a time -- and the BCS is all about the money -- but using that argument, you'd have to let in the Atlantic 10 conference too, and no one really wants to do that on a permanent basis.
Problem 3: Most conferences not named "Big 10" or "Pac-10" have a conference championship game.
coldcat leaves out the conference tournaments because "no one in this bizarro world wants the fun and excitement tournaments can bring." While that may be true, there's still a championship game to be played to determine who really gets the automatic berth. You want UNC? Not until they beat Clemson. You want Tennessee? They have to get past Mississippi State first. You want Georgetown? Both Notre Dame and Louisville might have a problem with that, depending on how you set up the divisions. And if Memphis beats Houston in the C-USA final, who's to say that they don't jump UCLA, which doesn't play a conference championship game, in the rankings?
Problem 4: If March Madness is more exciting than the bowl system, how come no one watches it?
I don't know about your office, but in my office, everyone gets excited about filling in the brackets. Why? Because there's usually a (non-money) pool involved! It's not because it's basketball -- heck, the 48 hours between Selection Sunday and the Tuesday play-in game are spent figuring out just who the hell are on the 65 teams that made it, because no one, and I mean no one, was watching college basketball during the regular season.
So Tuesday goes by, Wednesday comes, and the real March Madness begins, when everyone stays home from work and throws March Madness parties where they watch the commercials that keep getting interrupted by a game they don't understand. Oh, wait -- they don't. See, the thing is, no one watches during March Madness either. What they do is reload their web browser every five minutes to see how their bracket is doing. No one cares about San Diego or George Mason or whoever the Cinderella du jour is, as long as they're not busting brackets.
And the thing is, CBS knows this. That's why they jump from game to game, going to wherever the, uh, "excitement" happens to be at any given time. There's a reason that so many games are played at once.
So what about the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four? Glad you asked! Over the last few years, less than 10 million households watched the regionals, and less than 20 million watched the championship game. How does that compare to the BCS? Each BCS game averages 10 million, and the national championship drew 23.1 million viewers. And that's without the "excitement" of a tournament.
There's one last straw to grasp: maybe people aren't watching the games on TV because they're actually at the games!
Uh, no. Basketball is usually played in arenas, which seat 20-30k. The Final Four is played in domes, which seat 40-50k. For comparison, the 2007 National Championship game between LSU and Ohio State drew just under 80,000 to freakin' New Orleans -- for the THIRD game played that week! And the Texas Bowl, which featured Texas Christian versus Houston? Just under 63k. Do the math -- two football teams bring in 63k fans; EIGHT basketball teams can't bring in 40k.
By the way, just to reinforce the notion that the BCS is all about the money: the NCAA tournament earns $586 million and pays out $200 million, with the Final Four generating between $50 and $75 million. The bowls paid out $225 million -- with half as many games.
Problem 5: These athletes really DO need to study.
Basketball has at least one advantage over football -- a basketball team can play more than once a week and, come conference tourney time, can sometimes play twice in the same day. That helps basketball when it comes to scheduling a tournament. You can have a 16-team tournament in two weeks, whereas a similar football tournament would take at least four.
But let's not forget that these are student-athletes, and they need time to study -- and a basketball player is more likely to need his degree than a football player. Consider this math: there are 119 Division I-A football teams, each fielding about 85 players, give or take a sanction. That's 10,115 players. There are 32 professional football teams, each drafting about seven players each year. That's 224 draft positions. Say 1/4 of the 10,115 players are draft-eligible each year. That means 2,529 players are competing for 224 possible roster spots, or about 11 players for each available draft position.
Let's do the same for basketball. There are 326 Division I basketball teams, each fielding about 12 players. There are 30 professional basketball teams, each drafting two players per year. Take a fourth, and that's 978 players competing for 60 spots, or 16 for each available draft position. So who's more likely to not "go pro"?
(Sidebar: Yes, there are more opportunities for basketball players. They can go to the CBA, or play overseas, whereas football players can play in NFL Eur... uh, the All-Ameri... um, the CFL. What do you mean, "they limit the number of American players?" I guess there's always Arena Football. But neither the CBA nor the AFL are necessarily lucrative.)
Problem 6: Six minutes of fouls, time-outs, and free-throw-shooting is hardly exciting.
Boise State's Statue of Liberty play, or Ted Ginn returning the opening kickoff in the national championship game for a touchdown, however, are undeniably exciting... and people actually watched those moments.
I heard they might cancel the Beef-A-Roo Bowl this year because of several health code violations.