Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Regular season college basketball is just the worst

I have a very conflicted relationship with college basketball. I love March Madness and when the time comes I'll be as excited as anyone to follow it, but here we are midway through the season and I couldn't care less about it. I have a general sense of who's doing well, but I honestly couldn't tell you much beyond that. I know no story lines and very, very few of the players. I haven't followed the sport and I've maybe watched three games in total. Because the fact of the matter is regular season college basketball is by design pointless.

It's kind of remarkable, my lack of interest. I'll watch just about any sport on TV, even if I don't understand the rules. Just give me competition and some goofy sideline interviews, and I'm in. I've watched bowling. I've watched trick shot pool. I always make sure to watch the spelling bee.

(Quick tangent: I've never watched the show Toddlers and Tiaras but I am aware of the concept and would absolutely watch that show if it were about spelling bee kids and their parents. YOU'D BETTER MEMORIZE THESE LATINATE ROOTS OR YOU'RE IN BIG TROUBLE, MISTER! I QUIT MY JOB TO PURSUE YOUR DREAM! JUST THINK ABOUT OUR DREAM! WE CAN DOMINATE COMPETITIVE SPELLING! Okay, end tangent.)

I just can't bring myself to watch regular season college basketball, though. Some of it is the level of play (let's face it, VASTLY inferior to NBA), but I'm more than willing to forgive that come tournament time. In fact, that's part of March Madness' charm. The problem is the regular season just seems so futile. We've seen low seeds do well in the NBA, NFL, and MLB in the last few years, causing some fans (and gamblers) to decry the regular season's lack of importance, but none of them have anything on the volatility of college basketball's playoffs.

March Madness is great but its design, with one game eliminations and huge pool of teams, renders following the sport during the regular season moot. Basically, I can rely on others for analysis, and my bracket's gonna be a crapshoot regardless of whether I'm plugged into the sport. So why should I care? I have absolutely no incentive, so I don't watch. What's strange is that college basketball's playoff system is universally adored even as it turns off potential fans. And again, I'll watch anything. Yes, I've watched darts. College football, which is almost universally criticized, somehow has the exact opposite effect.

There are a lot of flaws in the BCS, which have been covered ad nauseum, but they all essentially break down to two things: corruption and exclusion. The BCS itself is a system that exists to maximize profits, hence the endless slog of bowl games. While normally that wouldn't bother people so much, the BCS functions within the paradigm of college football, which the public would like to be wholly separate from money, and it very clearly isn't. Second, sometimes there are three worthy championship teams, or four, or seven, and the Boise States or Oklahoma States of the world don't get a fair chance. That is at the heart of everyone's disagreements with how college football decides its champions.

The BCS is essentially the exact opposite of March Madness; only two teams have a chance, but we're guaranteed that two of the best teams will play for the championship. In college football, the regular season matters, at the expense of the postseason games. I really don't give a shit who wins the Alamo Bowl, because it won't lead to anything. I don't even really know what the Alamo Bowl is. A bunch of random regular season games are vastly more important.

Ultimately, I guess I prefer the spectacle of March Madness. I prefer that UConn can suck most of the regular season and then just turn it on in the tournament. (I assume this is true because that was the narrative during the tournament, but I guess I don't really know and I'm definitely too lazy to look it up.) If that means I won't watch during the rest of the year, then so be it.

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