Sure you still want a football playoff?
Before the NCAA tournament tipped off, and people were asked for their predictions, the experts all said, “The best team will win in the end.”
This was code for, "We want to see Kansas-Kentucky."
And during the craziness of the opening rounds, the prevailing wisdom was, "Well, upsets are fun. This is why we all love the tournament’s first weekend. But in the end, it’s talent that will win out."
Again, this means Kansas-Kentucky.
Ahem. Well now, here we are, and this has been perhaps the best tournament we’ve ever seen. Except that after a bracket full of upsets, this is what you get.
The spin is that this is a Final Four that has “something for everyone.” Everyone, that is, except for those who wanted to see Kansas-Kentucky. You know, talent winning out, best against best at the end.
Personally, I have no problem with this lineup. That’s how it shook out. This is how you choose the national champion. These are the teams that won when it mattered. Boo-yah.
But if we get West Virginia-Butler Monday night, is there any way to say the two best teams in the country are playing for the national title? I mean, they belong there, but these would be this season’s two best college basketball teams? No, right? No?
And wouldn’t you – deep down, admit it – rather be watching Kansas-Kentucky?
So, what you’re saying is, you might prefer a BCS-style system as opposed to a playoff.
Ah ha! Yes, that was a trap.
But you have to wonder how many of the people making noise for a college football playoff year after year are the same ones who think this is a less-than-stellar Final Four, because this might be a taste of what you could get.
The other side of “anything can happen” is that anything can, in fact, happen.
(Just like we love the idea of democracy, right up until the other side ends up with more votes.)
You really want to risk that, college football fans?
The NCAA tournament is about the process. The journey. It’s about bumps in the road. It’s about – cliché alert – shining moments. It’s about survival. It’s about the tournament, not the championship game.
The NCAA tournament is not about being the best team in the country, it’s about being the best team That Night. And being the best team That Night six times. It’s a tournament.
They put it in the right month, because that’s exactly what it is: a March. It’s a long, hard, unbelievable, inconceivable March.
College football, meanwhile, is all about the Big Game. It’s about deciding, once and for all, who is Number One.
In fact, that’s the controversy, isn’t it? That’s why people want a playoff. To ensure that the two very best teams end up in that final game. Well, you know how you make sure the two best teams play each other? It’s easy. You pick them. You put them in that game.
Look, college basketball is a playoff sport. You’re measured by making the tournament (which is why some coaches want it expanded). You’re measured by making the Sweet 16 (which until recent years has been like making the Final Four, for mid-major teams). You’re measured by making the Final Four.
That’s when you know you’re entrenched in a tournament way of thinking, that you hang your hat on making the Final Four.
College football, meanwhile, is a No. 1 sport. Its national championship legitimacy hinges on ending the season with the big matchup everyone wanted to see.
Ahem. Still think a playoff is the way to go, football fans?
No, football doesn’t favor Cinderella the way basketball does. Not without a month to prepare. Not week in and week out.
But crazy things happen in single elimination. Look at what we’ve got in basketball this year. And it’s been great. College basketball is about having a great tournament.
But college football is about putting the two best teams together in one last, epic game to see who’s No. 1.
It’s been a terrific NCAA tournament. Maybe the best ever. But before it started, everyone was hoping for Kansas-Kentucky on Monday night. It’s OK, you can go ahead and admit it, as you brace for this Final Four. You’re happy for these underdogs, but you were hoping for another matchup, in this season’s last game.
Don’t worry. I won’t tell any of your playoff-proponent friends that you think the BCS system might not be so bad after all.