I love the NCAA Tournament. From Selection Sunday to filling out my bracket to the Thursday and Friday full of games, the first week of the tournament is one of my favorite weeks of the year.
Thats why its so hard for me to admit that, while the NCAA Tournament is wonderful and exciting, the BCS does a better job of determining the best team. There shouldnt even be a debate that the NCAA mens basketball champion this year isnt the best team.
Butler did finish first in the Horizon League, but the Bulldogs were tied with Cleveland State and Milwaukee. In the final AP poll this year, Butler wasnt in the Top 25.
UConn was seeded ninth in the Big East Tournament, finishing just 9-9 in the conference during the regular season.
Whichever team wins tonight, it will mark the fourth time in the past 10 years that the champion couldnt be included in the discussion of which team was the best college basketball team. On two of those occasions (2003 and 2006) the tournament winner wasnt even in the Top 10 in the final AP poll. If Butler wins tonight, it will be three times.
Meanwhile, in college football during that same 10-year stretch, none of the BCS national champions would be out of the discussion when it comes to the best teams.
Yes, sometimes teams like TCU this past season or Boise State in 2009 dont get a shot at the title despite finishing the season unbeaten, but is there any question that Auburn and Oregon State were on the very short list (a list that included, at most, three teams) of best teams in the country this year?
The question is, do you want the most exciting postseason or the one that actually determines the best team in the sport? If you chose the first option, then the NCAA Tournament is for you. If you chose option two, then maybe its time we stop bashing the BCS.
Theres not a wrong answer to the above question. Sports should be fun, so if you pick the NCAA Tournament format, thats fine, but understand that all it really determines is the hottest team over a three-week stretch.
Sure, sometimes the best team actually does win, which was probably the case the four years before this one. Plus, fans enjoy the upsets and participating in bracket challenges. Theres something to be said for fans having fun.
I love everything about the NCAA Tournament, but I know the one-and-done format can give us a Final Four like the one this year. The top two seeds in all four regions failed to reach Houston for the Final Four, while a team that couldnt even win the CAA was one of the last four standing.
If you truly want to determine the best team, the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball get it right.
The BCS has problems if a third team is in the mix for consideration as the best team. The NCAA Tournament and the NFL playoffs are one-and-done, meaning if the best team has an off game (New England this past year is a good example) they could be bounced from the tournament.
But in the NBA, NHL and MLB, the postseason determines the champion by using a best-of series. Each round of the NBA and NHL playoffs is a best-of-seven series, while baseball has one best-of-five and two best-of-seven series.
Even if a team has an off game or two, theres a very good chance the best team will prevail.
Go ahead, embrace the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy March Madness. Root for the underdog. But dont believe for a second that the tournament champion is somehow the best team in the country.