Tuesday, February 2, 2010


There have been some rumblings that the MLB and NFL should expand their playoffs. Fortunately, the only time the grumbling surfaces is when there is a disparity between a weak division winner and a 90+ win wild card team that gets left at the altar. After 162 games, 8 finalists are more than enough to determine the best team (as a matter of fact, it is much more likely to NOT determine the best team, but given the differences in the leagues, the benefit of doubt has been granted).

This is mentioned in light of the NCAA basketball tournament considering expansion to 96 teams. Yes, the number of Division 1 schools has increased dramatically since the tournament went to 64 teams (234 to 347), but most of those schools that have ascended are not competing for the overabundance of at large spots. These would go to the major conference bubble teams, along with a couple to the mid and lower major conferences. If a 96 team tournament were to start today, EVERY SINGLE TEAM IN THE ACC (even friggin Boston College) would get in. Why even bother with a regular season, or conferences, at that point.

The 64 team tournament was great because it followed the old premise that every conference would be represented, but also allowed for the thirty or so "next best" teams a shot. College basketball does not require the large financial resources that football requires, so if a low budget school invests wisely (think Gonzaga) they can compete and win at the highest level. The Cinderella premise is what drives the interest for the NCAA tournament. With more schools at such a premium to win each year, coaches have learned to schedule wisely, peak at the right time, and the major conference teams, despite a run from George Mason to the Final Four, have squeezed the non-BCS conferences almost out of the picture. The NCAA, knowing they cannot win a financial battle against those schools, folded and increased the participation.

In the end, it is only one extra game for 64 schools, but it really dilutes the talent level in the tournament and makes it much more difficult for the "Best Team" to win it all. Does the EPL, or any soccer league outside the US, need a playoff? Hell no. If a team cannot prove themselves over 162 games, they do not belong in the championship discussion.

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