Monday, March 4, 2013
No Matter What?
It's been nearly two months since college football crowned its national champ. Spring practices are still a few weeks away. And we basically know which prep stars are going to which big-named programs. However, this is the out-of-season time that college football fans should rejoice the most.
"The regular season matters." More than anything, that's the phrase you'll hear from the mouth a college football supporter. In their opinion, games from late August to early December have more much import than those in the season played from early November to early March.
And, for college basketball fans, those words usually come to fruition during the next two weeks. Championship Week (which really should be 'Weeks') is the most exhilarating time of the season for some observers of the game. For many schools that won't be factors in the NCAA tournament, this is their March Madness. This is the opportunity for notoriety, attention, and glory on a national stage. Unfortunately, it's also the sport's downfall.
It takes four months for a basketball squad to round into shape, whether good or bad. The better ones filter themselves out over time. They rise to the top of their peer group, proving their worthiness both in and away from their comfort zones. After the results settle, they have the honor of being the best (or co-best) for that season. Then, in the matter of a few days, all that work can go down the drain.
Even though the regular season conference winners get an automatic bid into the NIT (at the very least), there's no assurance that schools from the NCAA's 'one-bid' leagues will get to the Big Dance by winning the postseason's "preseason." And as fantastic of an event as the NCAA tournament, this is my argument for its fatal flaw.
The conference tournaments provide a nice, neat way to give one-bids their "democratic" vote in the NCAA championship election. While all schools have to go through the same process, the power champions know that they have the fallback of a back-loaded schedule. If they lose, the season continues at the highest level. For their "smaller" counterparts, one loss is not only damaging, it's lethal to their (minuscule, but breathing) title hopes.
So, is there a solution? Like some analysts (most famously, Jay Bilas) have opined, I also think the most ideal situation would be that the regular season champ gets the golden ticket into the NCAAs. It hasn't kept the Ivy League from staying viable and causing havoc in the main draw. And, for the last three campaigns (including this one), the race for that prestigious title has come down to the final weekend.
Unfortunately, we won't see this particular fix in 2013. We likely won't see it in 2014, 2015, 2016, and so on and so on. Hopefully, there will be a day when this argument will be a moot point. But to Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Tech, Bucknell, Belmont, Akron, Long Beach State, and other small league champs ... LISTEN UP! You'd better take care of business over the next two weeks. If you don't, all you'll do is prove the college football fans right.