Friday, September 10, 2010

We need more BCS

Everyone hates the BCS. I know this. It pits two teams against each other at the end of a season to declare a winner with no one else getting a shot at the title. It is mostly a numbers game. Computer formulas and polls determine the top ranking teams, oftentimes swayed too much by the partly random slotting of where a team is ranked pre-season. Before the season starts, if your team is ranked outside the top 15, your championship hopes are slim to none no matter how good you are. This seems like a flaw. And yet, if you can manage to run the table, beat everyone on your schedule, take care of your own business, and you have at least two or three reasonably talented opponents on that slate, your team can work its way up to the top. Essentially, in the Bowl Championship Series, every game is a semi-playoff game.

That is what made the recent Boise State - Virginia Tech game even better. This has been mentioned before by Jason Whitlock, Chuck Klosterman, and others, but it warrants reiterating. Without the BCS, that game would have meant little to nothing. It would have been like a first month NCAA basketball match-up between top ten teams. Sure, it is interesting to see where each team stands, but the outcome is almost irrelevant. However, with the BCS, this early September game became a literal playoff game. If Boise St. had lost, their championship hopes would have been over, end of story. With Virginia Tech coming up short, their title hopes are pretty much over as well. They can still win the ACC and make the Orange Bowl of course, but the title game is now out of reach.

The BCS, for all its flaws, makes every regular season game mean something. And there are other major sports who need that same affect. When was the last time you cared who won an NBA regular season game? 1999? 1974? They mean nothing. And it is the same with the NHL. Over half the league makes the playoffs. No one, two, or even dozen regular season games mean anything more than bragging rights. College basketball has the same problem, and because of tournament expansion, it will get worse as the years go on. If Duke plays Purdue the first week of this coming basketball season, that could be a Final Four preview. Two top ten teams battling against each other early on in the year to see where they stand. But it will be nothing more than that. Three weeks later it won't mean a thing who won that game. Both schools will make the NCAA tournament no matter the outcome of that game. Neither schools' championship hopes will go up or down based on the final score. The regular season means nothing.

It could be argued that NCAA basketball would be better off with a BCS than with their current tournament. Since it could be argued, I will now argue it. Currently, the top 50ish teams make the NCAA tournament. The rest of the field is made up of conference winners who aren't as good as many teams being left out of the field. The tournament itself is so popular because of the atmosphere, the chance for a buzzer beating shot, and the hopes of a Cinderella run by a small school. And yet, if by some chance, a team clearly not in the top 25 in the nation, went on to win the tournament, would this be better than what the BCS would hypothetically supply? The argument against the BCS is that it doesn't always give us the best team because a school or two each year gets left out of the title game by the numbers. And yet, the BCS always gives us a champion who at least deserves to fight for it, right? Can the same be said for the NCAA basketball tournament? Does Utah State really deserve a shot at being national champion? Is there any scenario where Richmond could be thought of as the number one team in America? Butler had their chance, and yet Butler has been a top 15 school every year for the past half dozen. Should a school ranked essentially outside the top 50 in the nation really deserve the right to be battling to be number one? Basketball gives this chance. Football rightly does not.

I'm not in love with the BCS formula because, as I've stated, my school's championship hopes are already dashed, just one game into the season. And yet, the alternative seems worse. I have never in my life watched an entire NHL regular season game. Even though I love basketball, this past season, I only watched one NBA regular season game in its entirety, and that was because I attended it. College basketball is right around the corner and yet, no one cares until March.

In a world where so many leagues make so many games inconsequential, isn't it time to appreciate the BCS for what it does? Thank you Bowl Championship Series. Thank you for making college football four months of playoffs.

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