Blog Entry

Should basketball be more like soccer?

Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:27 pm
Does European soccer have the best postseason formula?

Posted by Eric Angevine

College basketball has the best postseason even in any sport in America. You won't find anyone here who would argue against that.

Arguments commence when we consider who deserves inclusion in the Big Dance. Coaches at St. Mary's, Colorado, Alabama and Virginia Tech feel they did enough to get in. The selection committee disagrees. Is there a way that would be more fair?

The editor of Dave's Football Blog offers up the UEFA champions league as an example of a more reasonable system for choosing postseason participants. Instead of a relatively static number of bids per conference, the UEFA calculates the worth of each league every season and lets everyone know up front how many finishers from each at the end of the year (This is how I understand it from reading the blog. I'm otherwise completely ignorant of the system). Then the regular season is extremely exciting as teams battle for, say, the seventh and final spot in league play.

The author of the post says there would still be plenty of drama: bubble teams, non-conference tilts and even conference tournaments have a place in his vision.

This sort of system would remove that uncertainty that had Randy Bennett scratching his head as to why his St. Mary’s team didn’t make it in. If he knew in advance that only one West Coast Conference school would qualify for the NCAA tourney, he would know exactly how important that WCC final against Gonzaga was — and so would everyone else. The drama of that game trumps the drama of the big bracket reveal on CBS, which left St. Mary’s and its fans looking foolish on camera. Imagine if Tottenham Hotspur and Sampdoria had to sit in a room and wait to see if the UEFA picked them to play in the Champions League. Ridiculous, right? They unquestionably earned their bids with their play. I think that’s what we want to see in college basketball, too.

It's an intriguing idea, if totally fanciful. These systems become entrenched over decades, and wholesale change is highly unlikely. It would, however, take the decisions out of the hands of a group of suits in a pressure-filled room in mid-March. If there were a mathematical formula applied at the beginning of the season, based on the previous season's results, the onus would fall on teams to play to their potential in and out of conference. The non-con would help set up the next season's formula, and the in-conference would apply directly to meeting the criteria for inclusion in the tournament within the course of a specific season.

It's interesting, and worth thinking about in a year when the committee's decisions have been pilloried even more vociferously than usual.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB

Since: Feb 26, 2007
Posted on: March 18, 2011 11:46 am

Should basketball be more like soccer?

I've lived in Europe for two decades and been a US sports writer for another decade, so let me try to clarify.

1. The blog and photo above refer not to the old UEFA Cup but to the new improved Champions League.  The top 4 teams in the preceding year's standings--no exceptions--qualify from Europe's top Professional Leagues.  Roughly 60 teams begin round-robin play in 10-15 groups in August.  By February, 32 teams are left and play straight knockout matchs, home and away over the next three months, culminating in the European Title match in late May--watched by billions, worldwide.  This competition has come to dominate soccer and is even more popular now than the world cup. It gives elite clubs the ultimate club championship to shoot for each year and Europeans go crazy for it all year long, reaching a real fever pitch in the springtime.

2.  But for a single month, nothing can match the intensity of March Madness.  It is already showing us this week that it can even overcome subjective selections committees and bloated fields of 68, 78 or--someday--98.   In my opinion it is the planet's greatest single sports celebration. It makes College Basketball special; not the other way around.  To re-draft it into a Champions League format would probably mean dismantling some major college athletic association to accomodate this one sport and that probably ends the conversation right there.

3.  The bottom line is that these are two distinct, vibrant competitions that may be best left alone.  March Madness uniquely provides a spring sports celebration that is special for America. While it would be nice for selection committees and RPI's to go away, so far nothing, including endless shifting TV coverage and expanded fields, nor stronger or weaker top teams can stop this event from bringing America to its feet.

Since: Mar 17, 2007
Posted on: March 17, 2011 7:29 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

I definitely think they should look at a format like the Champions League for determining who gets in the field.  I think it would be very doable to rate the conferences over a short period of time to determine how many teams receive automatic bids from each conference.

I would though leave some at large selections for a committee to select.   The committee process needs anoverhaul the way it is.

Since: Oct 11, 2007
Posted on: March 17, 2011 3:43 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

I mean, dumb to say everyone likes it better.

Since: Oct 11, 2007
Posted on: March 17, 2011 3:34 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

College basketball has the best postseason even in any sport in America. You won't find anyone here who would argue against that.

Uh no. I'll take NBA playoffs and NFL any day over march madness. Has college had a single game that can top the epic bulls-celtics 09 series?

Since: Mar 10, 2008
Posted on: March 17, 2011 2:13 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?


Since: Nov 30, 2008
Posted on: March 17, 2011 1:32 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

Yes, we DO already know what leagues will be the best ahead of time...and that's fine.  This Champions League idea works.  Anyone that follows the Champions League (proper) knows that Poland, for example, will only ever have one bid to the CL draw and England will (almost) always send four teams.  Thats the point; this proposal keeps weak leagues from loading the field (so none of this 3 CAA teams getting in...unless they've earned it over time).  It also prevents a St Mary's-type situation (assuming their coach thought they were in anyway and tanked the conference title).  
Another note:  getting into one of those 'spots' doesn't allow you to just coast:  there is a LOT of reward for being the best in a strong league in the CL now (several byes) and a "penalty" for finishing lower in a strong league or winning a weak league (you have to play more games to take the title).

Since: Mar 17, 2011
Posted on: March 17, 2011 1:24 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

Since: Mar 27, 2007
Posted on: March 17, 2011 1:03 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

The champions league is based on the "coefficient" of each league based on the strength of opposition and the league as a whole. 

It would be interesting to see a system like that for college basketball AND for college football, all colegiate sports actually.  I mean seriously, who actually LIKES the BCS system? 

Since: Feb 1, 2010
Posted on: March 17, 2011 12:19 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

or soccer could be more like basketball. Everytime someone touches you, give them a penalty kick and allow everyone to score tons of goals. Tongue out

Since: Jan 12, 2007
Posted on: March 17, 2011 12:09 pm

Should basketball be more like soccer?

Anything that takes away the subjective and allows teams to know exactly what they need to do to qualify is a good idea in my book.  There can then be little to no complaining about not getting included because you knew what you needed to do to qualify and you didn't get it done.

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