Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In a B&B First...

I am going to express a modicum of sympathy for the Duke University basketball program. Duke just won the ACC regular season and tournament titles. They are 29-5 and, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings, the best team in the country. They drew a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So what is their reward for a season of excellence? A bracket in which they could end up playing Texas A&M and then Baylor in Houston.

Pitt faces a similar issue. The Panthers are 24-8 and, according to the NCAA, one of the 12 best teams in the country. What is their reward? A potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with BYU in Salt Lake City. (One caveat: since I mentioned KenPom's ratings earlier, I should mention that Pomeroy has BYU as the seventh-best team in the country, so this is not an injustice according to my preferred methodology. That said, the NCAA doesn't use KenPom's ratings, so by their standards, they screwed Pitt.)

The NBA, NHL, and MLB all have interminably long regular seasons followed by short, overvalued playoffs, but at least those three leagues have the decency to give incentives to teams in the form of homefield/court/ice advantage. If the Lakers have a great season, then they are rewarded by getting to play extra home games in the playoffs. College basketball doesn't even have that reward. Teams play all year for a chance at being slightly closer to home for the couple games that will decide whether their seasons are successes or failures, but even if a team does everything right and gets a #1 seed, there is still a reasonable chance that it will end up in someone else's backyard.

Moreover, the same commercial pressure that is pushing the NCAA to further expand an already gaudy tournament also causes the NCAA to put teams like Duke and Pitt is difficult situations. It cannot be a coincidence that Baylor and Texas A&M are both in the South bracket when the NCAA needs to sell thousands of tickets for a regional at Reliant Stadium. Duke ends up being penalized by the NCAA's need to maximize revenue. Couldn't the NCAA have adopted a more neutral way to draw Texans to the regional, like say burning Thomas Jefferson in effigy?

I will now return to my normal Vicious Little Ferret jokes.


Jesse said...

Duke did not win the regular season title outright, they split it with Maryland.

Not that any of that relates to your point, just saying. And since it is Duke, I can not agree with you, but will agree regarding Pitt.

As for the money issue, isn't that really what all sports have devolved to by now? Money drives the rules that every sport lives in, expecting anything else is futile.

Anonymous said...

At least Duke gets a chance to play for a title. They probably wouldn't in football: it would be Kansas v. Kentucky in the BCS game, while Duke enjoyed some pointless, bloated bowl match up of no consequence.

chg said...

Duke only gets a chance to play for the title if they make it past five other games first.

Now is when you respond, "but they have a chance to win those games and make it there! The BCS is wrong!!!"

I will then point out that the same can be said for any legitimate title contender in CFB. The only distinction is the games are called playoff games in basketball, and regular season games in CFB.

2004 Auburn!
(Shrug) Sometimes stupidity wins out. No system is perfect, but college football has crowned the best team with the greatest complete body of work far more often than basketball.

I think that is important, and I do not give a whit about attracting sports dilettantes who fill out a bracket based on mascots and where their brother-in-law went to college. You disagree on both counts.

Isn't this a fun discussion? Lets bring it up again and again whenever there is an opportunity.