Behind the Bracket – Bracketology is not excellent, but it surely beats the school soccer system each time

A version of this column first appeared in January 2001. Some of the names have been changed to protect the culprits.

Congratulations to Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. They are the unsurprising “last four” in college football.

We won’t use the first Final Four caps until the powers that be hold an acceptable and legitimate national championship. It’s been a long wait.

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To this reporter, there is no true champion in great college football, and neither will there be until every team that has a realistic chance of winning is drawn into the process. Now we only have three invitation-only bowl games masquerading as playoffs. A best-of-seven between Alabama and Clemson might be more attractive.

It’s been more than a decade since we needed this type of review, but the 10 reasons college basketball is better than college football are as pertinent as ever:

1) If the CFP were into college basketball, they would cancel the second weekend of the NCAA tournament and select the “four best teams” from the Sweet 16 for a three-game invite. And if a team that really wanted it wasn’t among the 16 decisions, it would just change the rules after the fact.

2) If bracketologists were playing college football, an appropriate playoff would be established that includes all of the conference champions and a handful of teams altogether. The argument that the last team left out of bracket will complain is controversial. The last team to be expelled from the NCAA basketball bracket also complains but has no realistic claim to the championship. The lowest seed to win the NCAA title was No. 8 (Villanova, 1985); At-Large teams are included down to seeds # 11 or # 12. This is a huge margin of error.

3) If the CFP were playing college basketball, any team at a non-power conference would already be banned from this season’s national title hunt. Sorry, Gonzaga. Bad luck, Houston and Saint Louis. They are only there to help us make money in the regular season.

4) If bracketologists were to play college football, the so-called “minor bowls” would be reorganized into the college football NIT. A three or four week streak would culminate in the top rated bowl that isn’t part of the main playoff. If Coastal Carolina loses its conference title game, it still has something to win.

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5) If the CFP were to play college basketball in a non-pandemic season, the nation’s top teams would play their last regular season games in early March and then sit idle for a month or more, waiting for playoff games to rustle up for and over-prepared. Imagine the ACC tournament ends on March 4th and the Final Four takes place on April 6th with no intervening games. Great idea.

6) If bracketologists were into college football, student-athletes in the sport could participate in a tournament to the full as basketball players can. Why can’t soccer players in non-pandemic years leave campus in December while their basketball colleagues seem to be anywhere, anytime? If the answer is that the football season is too long, stop playing in August and early September when the weather is ridiculously hot.

7) If the CFP were into college basketball, winning conference championship games would mean nothing most of the time. Also, you wouldn’t get any direct results or win all of your games if you weren’t at the cool kids’ table. If you’re at the really cool kid’s table, you can lose up to 80 percent of your games and still keep playing.

8) If bracketologists were to play college football, we would be subject to the same second guesses, debates, and predictions that make basketball selection Sunday one of the best days in the sport. We’d then run a college football tournament that shook every record for ratings, notoriety, interest, and sponsorship dollars (not to mention office pools!).

9) If the CFP has been involved in college basketball, the likelihood that it will produce an acceptable 68-team bracket is zero or less. These people meet every week for two months and can’t even fit six or eight teams, let alone 68. Say what you want about the NCAA men’s basketball committee – and I have it – but it could be quite a lesson CFP colleagues draw from this process and transparency.

10) If bracketologists were playing college football, you could read bracket projections practically year-round!

With that said, I’m officially turning my attention to a sport that really understands how to determine its annual champion. Only 82 days until selection Sunday!

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