Thursday, February 9, 2012

Meaning Nothing

TigerBlog caught the end of the North Carolina-Duke game last night, and clearly it was a awesome college basketball game.

As an aside, TB has been in both the Dean Dome and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and there's no comparison between the two. The Dean Dome beats Cameron in any possible category, especially atmosphere.

Anyway, if you missed it, Duke trailed by 10 at 82-72 with 2:10 to play and won 85-84 on a three at the buzzer.

It took an extraordinary turn of events from UNC, including some missed foul shots, bad turnovers and something TB had never seen before - an attempt to rebound an airballed three-pointer that UNC's Tyler Zeller accidentally redirected into the basket.

TB was pretty sure that counted for two points, not three, and after a brief referee's meeting - complete with the requisite arms-around-each-other hugging - it was indeed a two.

And, of course, Duke got one huge break from the ref, as the three-pointer from Seth Curry that made it 82-78 (and really was the shot that made the game close again) came after Curry had taken, oh, five steps.

It was a game that had a little of everything - the big comeback, some really clutch shooting, big swings in momentum, a great crowd, a great rivalry.

One thing it lacked, though, was significance. In the scheme of this year's college basketball season, here's what that game meant: Zero.

Duke and Carolina are assured of NCAA tournament bids. They'll be two seeds probably, though one of them could move up to a No. 1 or down to a No. 3.

Their NCAA run will be dictated more by matchups than anything else. Do they get an easy draw? A run against teams that might pose problems for teams that have different strengths? Duke, for instance, might do well against Syracuse's zone because of its great three-point shooters.

Whatever happens, the winner of the Duke-Carolina game last night (or the loser) doesn't have the season impacted in any way.

The same was true with the Georgetown-Syracuse game last night. It was a great game, yes, but ultimately it doesn't mean anything.

In fact, it's the No. 1 problem with college basketball. The regular-season is almost completely meaningless.

For power teams, they're in the NCAA tournament.

For teams from one-bid conferences, they have to win the conference tournament.

Maybe there's a group of 10-20 teams in Division I that are playing for NCAA tournament spots from multi-bid conferences. For basically everyone else? Nope.

And the effect is to ruin the significance of the great games played at this time of year.

It is, of course, the opposite problem that college football has, where the regular season is great and the postseason is horrible.

Anyway, it's pretty obvious where all this is going.

The Ivy League is the lone Division I league without a conference tournament, and TB can't imagine why anyone would want to change that.

Look at this year's races.

On the men's side, Harvard is unbeaten and Yale and Penn have one loss. As much as Harvard is ranked in the polls, the Crimson are unlikely to get an at-large bid should the league title get away.

For starters, Harvard's RPI is 40 right now. Even should Harvard go undefeated in the league, that number will come down a little. Should Harvard lose the two games it would need to lose to not win, that number would come down a lot.

On the women's side, Princeton is unbeaten, while Harvard has one loss. Princeton's RPI of 25 is amazingly strong. Still, Princeton would have to lose two games to not win the league, and that number would come down. Princeton does have a bunch of quality wins, but the Tigers couldn't be confident on selection day without an automatic bid.

In other words, the Ivy League is only getting one men's bid and is almost surely only getting one women's bid.

Whichever team gets that bid will have earned it, through a 14-game regular season. It won't come down to a ball that bounces the wrong way in the 1-4 semifinal game in the league tournament.

And why should it?

Isn't the goal for a one-bid league to send its best team, so it can have the best chance of getting an NCAA tournament win? If it isn't, it should be.

Maybe a few years ago, getting that one game on television (the league final) was huge. Now? Who cares? Every game is on television or video streamed.

It's getting the best team in the league to the NCAA tournament that matter.

One-bid leagues all lose money of their conference tournaments. The atmosphere at every game up until the final is essentially horrible. A team that has dominated during the regular season is now asked, usually, to win three games in three days, when quality is sacrificed as the play grinds on.

Get rid of the tournaments in leagues that are getting one bid.

For the big conferences, if there's going to be a tournament, limit them to the top eight or six or even four teams. Do something to make the regular season more important.

The Penn-Harvard men's game tomorrow night is a big one, and the implication for the league race will be huge. It far eclipses the meaning of Duke-Carolina or Georgetown-Syracuse.

It's not on TV, though. At the same time, ESPNU is showing Iona-Loyola, a matchup of teams that are 11-2 and tied for first place in the MAAC.

That game means the same as Duke-Carolina: Zero.

Their RPIs are 54 and 90. In other words, one bid. In other words, it's as likely that neither team will be in the NCAA tournament as it is that one of them well. Both won't. That's for sure.

Once again, the Ivy model is the right one.

It should be emulated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Dean Dome beats Cameron for atmosphere when both are full but the Dean Dome is more frequently not full.