The NBA and NHL have the fairest ways of crowning a champion for the following reasons:
Both leagues start with an 82-game regular season, which is long but not the expedition of the MLB season.
Playoff seeding is done by conference records, so teams that finished with a losing record in the regular season aren’t rewarded with a home post-season game like the NFL.
Teams that hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup or the Larry O’Brien Trophy have to win no fewer than 16 games to be crowned a champion.
When the dust settles, is there any question who earned a title in those leagues?
Certainly not, but that’s because these are the most fair ways to crown an American sports champion.
The most exciting way still belongs to NCAA basketball and the madness of March.
The NCAA tournament format is nearly flawless. Bicker all you want about the bubble teams that didn’t make the field but at least recognize the excitement instant conflict brings on Selection Sunday.
Not one game has tipped-off and already the tournament is dripping with drama and storylines.
Then you have the betting fascination. People that haven’t watched a lick of college basketball all season or placed a single wager on a sporting event are suddenly doing research on the tournament field’s best guards.
Outside of fantasy sports, what other element can turn almost anyone into a gambling junky?
From the natural flow and rhythm of the television broadcasts to the buzzer-beaters and upsets, there’s nothing like the first weekend of the tournament.
There’s raw energy that radiates from TVs and radios when games come on, which is rivaled by only Opening Day in baseball and the first Saturday and Sunday of football.
What can’t be rivaled: The tournament’s ability to quench viewers’ desire for underdogs and titans in a four-week span.
Some suggest the Cinderella teams are the draw of the tournament, but that’s only partially true. 2006 George Mason, 2013 Florida “Dunk” Coast, 1999 Gonzaga – all incredible runs, all truly great stories to follow throughout the tournament.
But who wins in the end? Duke. UConn. Kentucky. North Carolina. Kansas…The blue bloods of college basketball.
This is what makes the tournament so facilitating. You get instant drama with the underdogs, but even with the win-or-go-home setup of the tournament, you’re still watching the best-of-the-best.
The best talent, the best coaching, and the best performances earn championships. It’s a perfect setup.
Granted, college basketball’s regular season is the least intriguing in major U.S. sports. This is where NFL and college football cannot be topped. (The sheer popularity of the sport also naturally draws millions of viewers to the playoffs after the thrill ride that is the football season.)
But when it comes to the post-season format, the NCAA tournament still reigns supreme.
Quick-Hit Thoughts on the tournament:
– Northern Iowa: From utter jubilation in their buzzer-beater win over Texas, to sheer heartbreak in the meltdown versus Texas A&M. So many things have to go wrong for a team to blow a 12-point lead in less than a minute. Unfortunately for UNI, everything did.
– For my money, Kansas and North Carolina are on a collision course for the championship game. The Jayhawks started to sleepwalk in the second half of their win over UConn on Saturday, but they and the Tar Heels boast the tournament’s best talent.
– Indiana’s ball movement and 3-point ability is impressive, but outside of Yogi Ferrell I don’t think they have the athleticism (or length for that matter) to pull off a second straight upset.
Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige are too good and the Tar Heels too deep to suffer Kentucky’s fate.
– I underrated Gonzaga at the tournament’s start. I thought the Zags would fall in the first round to red-hot Seton Hall.
Even if they advanced, surely Utah would send the Bulldogs home in the second. Instead, Gonzaga put together one of the second round’s most impressive wins and Eric McClellan is going to be a thorn for Syracuse (if not Virginia or Iowa State).
– Even though St. Joe’s gave them all they could handle, I’m still impressed with Oregon. Dillon Brooks is clutch. The three he hit with just over a minute left Sunday night was a big shot.
Elgin Cook, the son of former Bucks’ star Alvin Robertson, is a player, too. Out of the No. 1 seeds, the Ducks were discussed the least at the start of the tournament and play in the seemingly cursed Pac-12, but Oregon could still make a ton of noise.
– Don’t sleep on Miami. They are one of the most experienced teams and are led by gritty senior in Angel Rodriguez.
Villanova is due to bow out of the tournament so don’t be surprised if the ‘Canes advance to the Elite Eight. If Miami meets KU, a Jayhawks’ victory isn’t a foregone conclusion.
– Buddy Hield continues to play as hyped. I don’t know if Oklahoma is deep enough to make it to the title game but Hield is a transcendent player that can elevate his teammates.
He flat out took over Sunday after a brief VCU lead in the second half. The Sooners might not need anyone else if Hield stays hot
– Calling my shots: Virginia is the first No. 1 seed to fall. Maryland is constantly walking a tightrope ready to fall at any moment, so I don’t see the Terps upsetting Kansas.
While dynamic offensively thanks to Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, Duke doesn’t play enough defense to beat Oregon.
Granted, Iowa State doesn’t play defense period, but Virginia wasn’t overly impressive in its win over Butler. A great defense usually beats a great offense, but I could see the Cyclones turning that narrative on its head Friday.
– Complete Sweet 16 predictions: Miami over Nova, Oklahoma over A&M, Kansas over Maryland, Oregon over Duke, ISU over Virginia, Wisconsin over Notre Dame (can these two teams be anymore similar?), Gonzaga over Syracuse and UNC over Indiana.
Enjoy the rest of the tournament, kids.
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