The biggest thing in sports soon will be March Madness and “bracketology.” Very shortly most offices in the U.S.A. will be focusing not on issues of productivity or globalization but on whether East Overshoe Tech is poised to upset Big Name University in the NCAA Sub-Web Quarter Regional played at a location without any rational geographical logic.
Trying to fill out a bracket is a lot like a bingo card; there’s much more luck than skill involved. And yet, both guessing games have their legions of devoted fans. Even though the “Big Dance” is bloated with 68 potential champs, its appeal doesn’t seem to fade. In big-time sports, more is more.
Well, if that works for big-time college basketball, why not for big-time college football? The teeny-tiny football playoff we now have involves just four teams. It’s produced some excitement, to be sure… look at the title game between Clemson and Alabama in January.
But the field is much too small. The field of four last time included Washington and Ohio State, who each got spanked pretty well in their semifinal games. Left out were USC (ranked third in the AP poll), Oklahoma (fifth) and Penn State (seventh). It’s a pretty safe bet that any of those three teams could have done better than a 31-0 defeat. USC, for example, defeated Washington 26-13 in Pac-12 play.
The folks behind the infant football playoff employ an arcane scheme that factors in a hatful of evaluations, none of which can be considered more than just one piece of the puzzle.
With just four teams, some good squads – potential champions – will be left out, which reduces the chances for Cinderella teams and pulse-pounding upsets. The solution is obvious. Expand the playoffs.
Four was better than two. So eight would be better than four. And 16 is just about right. That would allow the major football conferences to send their champion to the Big Dance, along with a few worthy also-rans and independents.
The tired old argument that the longer the season, the more the playoffs detract from the academic pursuits of college “student-athletes” is bunk. At this level, most of the elite players are AINO: Amateurs In Name Only. Their chief loyalty is to their NFL draft prospects, not good old Metropolitan A&M.
The finalists would play a maximum of four games, for which their colleges would be fabulously rewarded for TV rights. If that’s too many games, cut back on the boom in conference playoffs or “snore bowls.” Do we really need the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? How about the Quick Lane Bowl, which sounds like it should be played at the local AMF lanes.
Give us a Winter Whoopla to go along with our March Madness. Let the Oklahoma States and Western Michigans crash the party. As college hoops have proved, the more the merrier.
ORANGEWOOD COULD, REALLY
If you’re looking for an underdog to root for, you could come out to the gym at Orangewood Academy in Garden Grove on Tuesday night to cheer for the Spartans girls’ basketball team.
OA is playing Independence High of Bakersfield in the CIF SoCal Regional Division II semifinals. The Spartans are underdogs only in the sense that Orangewood is a private institution which has just about 100 students in its high school. Despite that, it’s become a CIF hoops powerhouse and is seeded first in its bracket (Independence is fifth).
The Spartans are coached by Leslie Aragon and led on the court by seniors Estafina Giner (13.2 points per game) and Carolina Montes (11.3).
With nine straight seasons of winning records and eight straight 20-win seasons, Orangewood is a small school that plays very big on the basketball court.
Pete Zarustica writes Monday Morning Coach.