What the Arkansas Razorbacks clothes College Football Playoff could learn from March Madness
The best postseason in American sports kicked off in brilliant fashion Monday night, when a pair of buzzer-beaters (one to force overtime, one to win it) punctuated the Southern Conference championship. Chattanooga’s 30-foot game-winner produced the type of spontaneous joy that spawned the “March Madness” moniker (that the NCAA trademarked because, you know, there was money to be made) and whetted the appetite for more postseason pandemonium.
Who knows how many more moments like that will captivate viewers and race around the Twittersphere between now and April 4. Wright State erased a 16-point second-half deficit to punch its ticket with a one-point win in WVU vs. Pitt Rivalry Gear the Horizon final, and the All-Dakota Summit final was a war that ended with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits leaping into the bracket. Sports Nation latches on to college basketball in March, jumps all in for the one-and-dones and rides the fun for a month.
College basketball has created a postseason where almost all 358 teams are eligible for the national championship when conference tournaments begin, yet the manner in which it pares things down is not clumsy or confusing. People understand the automatic bid concept, t NCAA Autographed Memorabilia he conference tournament set-ups, Selection Sunday and then the avalanche of NCAA Tournament games for three weekends as the field dramatically narrows Davidson Wildcats shirt to a Final Four and then a Final One. It is a calendar that builds to a dramatic conclusion as the regular season goes right into the postseason.
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It is interesting to experience this blitz of college sporting goodness every year just two months after the most unsatisfying postseason on the American sports landscape. College football has been trying and failing to figure out a way to crown a champion in an exciting, fair and captivating way for decades. It has gone from sportswriters voting, to coaches and sportswriters voting, to a convoluted and secret “computer” formula for a two-team playoff, then was dragged kicking and screaming into a, gasp, four-team playoff. Problem solved? Not really. The current format has turned out to almost always be disappointing after dependably gripping and memorable regular seasons.
College football is so wonderfully engrossing from Labor Day to Thank College Lacrosse Jerseys sgiving. The four-day opening weekend before the NFL starts is always loaded with intrigue, s Campbellsville Tigers shirt ome season-shaping non-conference games dot September Kentucky vs. Louisville Rivalry Gear , league games start as the weather turn Kentucky vs. Louisville Rivalry shirt s, rivalries heat up, polls take shape and things hit a crescendo with Rivalry Week in late November.
And then? Forced league championship games in NFL stadiums that mostly have a weird vibe and end in blowouts. Then the momentum stalls even more as we wait weeks for the awkwardly scheduled “New Year’s Six,” which aren’t actually all played on New Year’s, and in four of the six games several of the best players in the nation sit out. College football tries to dodge NFL games and the sacred Rose Bowl to schedule what should be its three most anticipated games of the season. The semifinals and finals have mostly been lousy and serve as a momentary distraction from the beginning of the NFL playoffs.
My colleague Jason Foster presented a great solution for MLB’s desire for a 14-team playoff. I’ll try the same for college football.
One of the biggest problems CFB faces is the month off between the regular season and postseason. I propose we end the regular season on Thanksgiving weekend, scrap the league championship games and play three rounds of a playoff the next three weeks at campus sites with either a 12-team or 16-team field. Yep, some games could feature a snowy landscape. For the grand finale, we play the national championship game on Jan. 1 at rotating sites.
This keeps the momentum from the regular season going, you have on-campus settings that sell the game so well during the regular season, the tournament is nowhere near the NFL playoffs and you still make Jan. 1 meaningful without the 25-day layoff.
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What about the bowls? Let’s play them. The NIT runs simultaneously with the NCAA basketball tournament, which is essentially what the bowl system has become. How ever the teams from No. 13 or 17 on down want to figure out how to do their postseason, I’m good with it. The bowls can’t be any more devalued than they already are. It has been proven that people will watch regardless. The Sugar Bowl can feature the No. 17 team vs. the No. 18 team on Dec. 31. Or the highest remaining SEC team. It doesn’t matter. Fixing the postseason is the No. 1 goal, and if some bowls die off, some die off. The schools don’t owe the bowls anything.
This is obviously fantasy land given how the sport’s dysfunctional leadership is allergic to taking steps to fix the playoff. So let’s all just sit back and College Operation Hat Trick Apparel enjoy another exciting and satisfying NCAA Tournament, which, with the First Four, starts roughly 48 hours after the field is announced. It delivers every single year and it will deliver this year. College hoops has many issues, but unlike its football brethren, it has its postseason mastered.