Canzano: Hoping the madness doesn't stop at basketball
Will an expanded College Football Playoff deliver upsets?
San Diego State will play Connecticut on Monday night for the men’s NCAA Tournament championship.
The last team to beat the Aztecs was Boise State on the final day of February. San Diego State led that Wednesday-night game with just over three minutes to play, but got outscored 14-0 to finish and lost 66-60.
Marquette beat UConn 70-68 on March 10 in the Big East Tournament championship game. The Huskies have looked scary since.
The tournament bracket has delivered a compelling title game. It features two good coaches and lots of great players. The Big East Conference vs. Mountain West Conference for all the marbles.
No team has felt safe. No outcome was certain. We saw a No. 16-seed beat a No. 1, among other things. It’s been an amazing few weeks of basketball. So why did I go to bed on Saturday night thinking about college football?
UConn was the No. 13 overall seed in the men’s basketball tournament. San Diego State is the overall No. 17 seed, per the selection committee. Both earned their way to the championship game. Anyone who saw San Diego State’s Lamont Butler rise up in the final second and launch that 17-foot dagger won’t ever forget the shot.
I tweeted a photograph of the Sunday front page of the San Diego Union-Tribune. It’s a terrific layout. The cover features a four-column photograph of the game-winning shot along with the headline “BUZZER BEATER.”
A follower who saw the tweet remarked: “Stage, pressure, technique, form, beauty, situation on the floor, maybe the most incredible jump shot I’ve ever seen. It was……perfect.”
In the photograph, Butler is frozen in mid-air — his wrist cocked after the follow-through — and the ball is floating toward the basket. The Aztecs are down by a point. The buzzer is about to sound. The eyes of every ticket-holder in the background are trained on the ball. No team in men’s Final Four history had ever advanced after making a come-from-behind buzzer-beater.
Butler did it.
(That could have been a fun headline.)
Still, I’m left thinking about the fact that the title game gave us overall seed No. 13 vs. No. 17. That sent me scrambling to the final College Football Playoff rankings from last season. Florida State finished the 2022 football regular season with a 9-3 record. The Seminoles were No. 13 in the final CFP poll. LSU (9-4) was No. 17.
I’m not saying that Florida State vs. LSU is the football title game we all wanted to see. Because it’s probably not. But I am saying that the four-team football invitational tournament that we’ve endured since 2014 feels woefully inadequate on a day like this.
Just for kicks, here are the No. 13 vs. No. 17 matchups in the last few college football seasons:
2022: Florida State (13) vs. LSU (17)
2021: BYU (13) vs. Wake Forest (17)
2020: North Carolina (13) vs. USC (17)
2019: Alabama (13) vs. Memphis (17)
2018: Washington State (13) vs. Utah (17)
I wouldn’t want to see all of those games. The SEC would scoff at the absurdity. Then again, who picked San Diego State (85-to-1 to win it all) vs. UConn (16-to-1) to play in the tournament title game? Not me. And I’m definitely tuning in on Monday night to see who cuts down the nets.
The top-four overall seeds in the 2023 men’s NCAA Tournament were 1. Alabama, 2. Houston, 3. Kansas and 4. Purdue. That would be our four-team invitational if basketball followed the format of college football’s postseason event.
Only two of those top-four overall seeds advanced to the Sweet 16. Kansas lost in the second round to Arkansas. Purdue got knocked out by Fairleigh Dickinson. None of them made the Elite Eight. I don’t blame anyone who stared at their busted bracket after the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament and told it: “You’re drunk. Go home.”
Football is not basketball. It doesn’t need a 68-team bracket with a “first four.” Nobody would see the point of No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 16-seed Sacramento State, for example. But I feel robbed when I compare the four-team College Football Playoff bracket to the basketball magic that has unfolded in March and early April.
Will 12 football teams capture the madness?
I sure hope so.
In 2024, the football playoff will expand to 12. It can’t get here soon enough. A lot of folks will be focused on how many entries the Big Ten and SEC get in that first bracket. But I’ll be looking at the extra eight teams. Seeds No. 5-12 will suit up with nothing to lose and let it rip.
I’m wondering how long until one of them plays for the title.
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Enjoy your work. I believe the expanded football playoff is a definite positive. There is a reason we play the games... to see how one team actually matches up against the other. Better to have the players settle the issue in a playoff - rather than have a few blue-blood talking heads discuss "body of work" when it comes to playoff time. "Body of Work" and a "tournament" are not the same thing, and obviously produce different results. "Body of Work" resulted in the top four seeds: a tournament resulted in UConn V SDSU. Give me the tournament...
The 12 team playoff should certainly provide more entertainment, and more meaning to more teams in November. I doubt we'll see the level of upsets that the BB tournament produces as CFB requires so much more infrastructure, depth and quantity of players. But the 4 team playoff has turned out to be the worst possible post season, so expansion can't hurt.