March still trumps the BCS chaos every time


Every college football season for the past 10 years has featured a thunderstorm of complaints about everybody’s favorite whipping boy, the Bowl Championship Series.

When fans, coaches and sports writers complain about the lack of a playoff system in college football, they immediately point to March Madness as the gold standard for determining a true national champion and giving us a heck of a ride along the way.

To put it in Twitter speak: March Madness > BCS.

Or at least, that was the consensus before this March.

The particular wackiness of this year’s March Madness has caused some to claim college basketball is susceptible to the same disease as the BCS, only in reverse.

Instead of letting the regular season largely determine a national title, March Madness weighs in postseason play too heavily, allowing subpar teams like Butler and Connecticut to get hot at the right time.

Was UConn really the best team in the country this year? Does it deserve to be called the national champion?

I’m appalled the debate even exists. First of all, what is the definition of a “true” national champion?

If Kansas, Ohio State or any other top-seed were deserving of the crown, then they would not have lost. A championship team is the team that’s best when it counts the most.

Just because UConn finished ninth in the Big East doesn’t mean it is not the best team in college basketball. What it accomplished this season should not be diminished because it took the players until the Big East Tournament to kick it into high gear.

Same goes for Butler. Yes, it was a No. 8 seed in the tournament with some ugly losses this season (Evansville and Youngstown State among them). But until yesterday, it hadn’t lost on the biggest stage, and it came through at (almost) all the right times.

The other problem with the debate is it assumes football and basketball are more comparable than they are. A good basketball team can easily lose to an inferior opponent. There are more games, less time to prepare for each opponent and nights when the shots just don’t fall.

On the other hand, in football, a team has at least a week to get ready for each opponent. Upsets are also much less likely because of the physical nature of the game. A team isn’t going to lose four or five games to inferior teams.

But in basketball, upsets are much more reasonable.

The whole point is to make it to March, because that’s when anything can happen. People should be applauding the Butler-UConn final because it represents everything that is right in college basketball, while football continues to wrong us year after year.

During this ridiculous debate, I don’t hear anybody calling for a change to the NFL playoff system.

Didn’t the sixth-seeded New York Giants beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII? Wasn’t this year’s champion, the Green Bay Packers, also a sixth seed?

To suggest UConn is not the real national champion is ludicrous.

Championship teams thrive in March, or January or whenever the postseason starts. It doesn’t matter if it took them until that month to come alive.

You say this makes the college basketball regular season less meaningful? I say, who cares? If it leads to an entire month of mayhem in March and an open field is consistent with the fairness of competition, then I can live with that.

All sports, especially sports with longer seasons like basketball, allow teams to develop incrementally over the course of the year. There might be a lot of ups and downs, but what matters is the finished product.

And I’ve never bought the argument the college football regular season would be less meaningful without the BCS. There are only 12 or 13 games. If teams were fighting for only eight playoff positions, the regular season would hardly lack meaning.

The college basketball champion is always deserving of its crown because it survived a true playoff.

The college football champion often isn’t, because it can hide behind weak schedules and partial voters to get into the title game.

Even USC’s last two football championships are tainted because of the broken system.

The 2003 championship was a split title with LSU and in 2004, Auburn finished undefeated but was left out of the Orange Bowl. USC got to roll over a severely outmatched Oklahoma team instead.

A true champion can say it took on all challengers and emerged victorious. A true champion is the best team at the end of the season, not the beginning or middle.

In other words, a true champion is the last man standing after the dust clears in a field that started with 68 competitors, 67 of whom just didn’t have what it takes.

 

“Middle Ground” runs Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Josh at jjovanel@usc.edu.