Replace Conference Tournaments

Why Are So Many Jumping off the Hornets' Bandwagon?

Another Reason Basketball's Not My Favorite Sport

More Play-in Games

The King of Commissioners

Why Now, Skip?

Lady Tigers Have a Chance

Cry Babies Can Play Exciting Games

Thank You, Color Commentators!

Wake Me When the NBA Playoffs Start

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Biased Basketball Opinions - 2

This Week's Biased Opinion: Replace the Conference Tournaments [3/13/09]

I've indicated on this site my opposition to conference basketball tournaments. To offer constructive criticism, I propose a different way to spend the week before March Madness.

Instead of playing among themselves in a season-ending tournament, teams of one conference should play teams of another conference when their regular seasons end. The pairings of conferences would be preset before the season. This would be similar to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge that has been played in November/December. The difference would be that, like the conference tournaments, all games would be played at one site.

Here is an example.

Suppose the SEC and Big Twelve pair off for the week after their regular seasons end. Then the top eight in each conference would be paired in a four-day tournament like this.

Day One

#3 SEC vs. #4 Big Twelve
#4 SEC vs. #3 Big Twelve
#7 SEC vs. #8 Big Twelve
#8 SEC vs. #7 Big Twelve

Day Two

#1 SEC vs. #2 Big Twelve
#2 SEC vs. #1 Big Twelve
#5 SEC vs. #6 Big Twelve
#6 SEC vs. #5 Big Twelve

Day Three

#3 SEC vs. #3 Big Twelve
#4 SEC vs. #4 Big Twelve
#7 SEC vs. #7 Big Twelve
#8 SEC vs. #8 Big Twelve

Day Four

#1 SEC vs. #1 Big Twelve
#2 SEC vs. #2 Big Twelve
#5 SEC vs. #5 Big Twelve
#6 SEC vs. #6 Big Twelve

Conferences would sign two-year contracts. So the tournament outlined above would be played at a Big Twelve venue, such as the Alamodome, one year and at an SEC arena, such as the Georgia Dome, the other. Or, if the conferences prefer, the Day One/Three games could be played at the Alamodome and Day Two/Four could be played at the Georgia Dome. It would seem, though, that it would be better to play all four days at the same site so that fans can make their plans in advance just as they do now. In any case, a large business-sponsored trophy would be awarded to the conference that won more games in the four-day event (or each conference displays the trophy at its headquarters for six months if they tie).

While no team plays more than two games during the event, all teams are guaranteed two games. No one and done. The conferences would, of course, share the proceeds from the tournament.

The argument for conference tournaments now is that they are exciting because they affect the seeding of teams that are definitely in March Madness and also determine the fate of bubble teams. Wouldn't the above setup have even more impact on both groups of teams since teams, in most cases, are playing opponents they did not meet in the regular season?

Teams that do not make the inter-conference tournament would be free to schedule games among themselves at their campus sites.

Some conferences might want to continue to play each other every pre-March Madness week while others may want to swap partners every two years. For example, the ACC could play the Big East for two years and then the SEC for two years. However, the Pac-10, being more isolated, might play the Mountain West or another conference in their area permanently. As presently constituted with 16 teams, the Big East could actually split in two with its teams that finish in odd-numbered positions in conference standings playing one league of eight and the even-numbered teams playing another conference of eight.

Wouldn't it be more fun to watch LSU play Kansas and Tennessee play Oklahoma than watching LSU play Mississippi State for the third time and Tennessee play Alabama for the second time in five days? In a "mid-major" conference like C-USA, wouldn't you rather watch Memphis play the top team from another mid-major rather than waltz through the same teams they've already annihilated in the regular season?

The proposed system would also make conference play more competitive because the bottom four teams in the Big 12 and SEC would not make the tournament, much as football teams eliminated from any chance of winning the conference championship play hard to the last game in order to make a bowl game or move up to a better bowl.

Even if most conferences retain their tournaments, it would be fun if some of the leagues would pair up this way. It's not an everybody-or-nobody proposal. If the first inter-conference tournaments draw interest and bigger TV contracts, the other leagues will follow suit.

Biased Opinion 4/14/08: Why Are So Many Jumping off the Hornets' Bandwagon?

After two losses in California, everyone seems to be jumping off the Hornets' bandwagon, even the coach and players. Why? The team has been through a grueling stretch of 9 road games in the last 12. They lost to Los Angeles by 3 and Sacramento by 3. Yet many are now questioning whether Byron Scott's team is ready for the playoffs. Admittedly, wily veteran Phil Jackson has the Lakers peaking just in time for the playoffs. But that doesn't mean the Hornets will bomb. Unfortunately, panic and loss of confidence can become self-fulfilling prophecy. Thinking you can't compete at playoff level can translate into a deadly lack of confidence on the floor. Let's hope the Hornets bounce back and win the final two games to clinch the Southwest Division and regain their swagger. So they're #2 seed instead of #1. They're still the team that has been at the top of the Conference for several months now. Opponents should be fearful of them, not vice versa.

Biased Opinion 4/7/08: Another Reason Basketball's Not My Favorite Sport

Goodbye NCAA basketball season and good riddance. Watching teams I was rooting for choke on FTs two nights in a row to blow games is more than enough. Also illustrates why basketball will never be my #1 sport. Think about it. Teams intentionally do something wrong (commit a foul) as a fundamental strategy when losing late in the game. In football, the team with the lead and the ball in the last minutes must make first downs and the losing team must stop them. In baseball, you must get 27 outs. You can't run out the clock. But in basketball you can stop by the clock by playing badly (i.e., fouling) and then benefit from what you did when the other guy can't make the FTs. It would be like in football, committing a penalty and having to stand aside while the QB throws a pass through a tire. If he can do it, his team gets a point but the defense gets the ball. If he can't, the defense takes over the ball anyway. The only parallel in football I can think of is a team losing because it could not making extra points or short FGs. If basketball is your favorite, then you like the idea of having to make FTs "under pressure." It does make the sport unique and creates exciting endings.

Biased Opinion 3/20/08: More Play-in Games

We've had the usual weeping and gnashing of teeth from coaches and commentators about the poor teams that didn't get picked for the NCAA Tournament (chiefly Arizona State and Virginia Tech). It's not like any of these teams had any real chance for the championship. If they did, they wouldn't have been "on the bubble." So I'm not overly sympathetic to the teams that must console themselves in the NIT.

Having said that, I have a simple suggestion that would result in three more teams making the "Big Dance." Before I unveil my proposal, I must first disagree with Bob Knight who, in his retirement role as ESPN commentator, urged a 128-team tournament, which would require only one more round of games. As one who thinks 64 teams is too many and cheapens the regular season enough already, I don't agree with Bob on that one. Instead, I propose this.

Instead of having a "play-in game" (such as Mount St. Mary's vs Coppin State this year) for just one #16 position, why not have play-in games for all four #16 slots? This would require six more small-conference champions to play each other in a preliminary round. You would thus open up three more slots in the 64-team bracket for the Arizona States and Virginia Techs. The fourth bubble team would still bitch, but you would eliminate some disgruntlement and share the tournament wealth with more schools.

Biased Opinion 2/17/08: The King of Commissioners

Interesting contrast between the face put forward by the NBA and the public image of baseball and pro football.

  • The NBA World has descended upon New Orleans for All-Star Weekend. Pictures and videos sent around the globe of NBA players, coaches, and even the Commissioner building playgrounds, painting houses, and in general helping the Crescent City rebuild. Slam Dunk, 3-point Shooting, Skills, and other competitions which are more fun than the All-Star game itself. Greats from the past take part in all of the activities. The host team, the New Orleans Hornets, are the feel good story of the year with the best record in the Western Conference at the All-Star break.
  • Baseball has Roger Clemens defending himself against charges in the Mitchell Report that he used performance enhancing drugs; Andy Petitte condemning his (former) friend in testimony to Congress; Home Run King Barry Bonds facing perjury charges or worse; Miguel Tejada also accused of illegal drug use.
  • Football is dealing with cheating charges against its premiere team, the Patriots, with its dour coach whose legacy is now tarnished. Congress is snooping into Spygate as if it's more important than minor matters like the Iraq War, recession, and illegal immigration. The NFL, instead of continuing its contribution to rebuilding New Orleans, has taken away a home game from the Saints as part of its foolish scheme to market the game overseas. Decrepit former players are excoriating Union leader Gene Upshaw and demanding more help from the league and the players' association.

Say what you want about the NBA, David Stern is the King of Commissioners. Notice how there's no longer any talk about tainted referees in the wake of the Donaghey scandal last summer. And no accusations that Koby Bryant or Tim Duncan or Chris Paul or any of the stars of the league have reached their lofty perches through anything other than God-given talent and hard work.

Meanwhile, baseball sold its soul to the Devil in the 1990s by looking the other way as players built their bodies artificially. Because of bad decisions by MLB leadership going back to at least the 1970s, the owners needed to rebuild the game's image after the 1994 players strike ended the season prematurely. McGwire and Sosa resurrected baseball in 1998 but at a high price which the sport is paying now and will pay for some time to come. All this occurred during the watch of Bud Selig, the Owners' Commissioner. Even after he admitted he mishandled the steroids controversy for years, his peers extended his contract as head of the sport. Judge Landis he ain't.

Biased Opinion 2/9/08: Why Now, Skip?

For the second year in a row, Skip Bertman has canned a basketball coach before the season ended. Last year, it was Pokey Chatman just before the NCAA Tournament. Pokey's immediate ouster was necessitated by the charges against her by a former player. Brady's dismissal was widely expected at the end of this dismal season.

So I was surprised by Friday's announcement that Brady was fired immediately. Unless there are behind-the-scenes problems that Skip couldn't make public, I see no advantage to what he did. I agree with those who say that Brady's 11 years with SEC championships and a Final Four appearance should have given him the right to decide for himself whether he wanted to finish the season or step down immediately. All in all, this isn't the high point of Skip's Athletic Directorship. The Tigers gave an incredible effort in the heart-breaking loss to Tennessee – influenced no doubt by the emotional events of the previous day. We'll never know how well they would have played in that game with John still at the helm.

One advantage of the early decision might have been the opportunity to pursue possible replacements immediately. However, Bertman said that the search is on hold because all candidates must finish their seasons with their current teams. So what was the point of pulling the plug with a month left in the season?

I commend Brady on the classy way he handled himself at the press conferences Friday and in the interview with Joe Dean Jr. (whose father hired John) that was shown at halftime of the Lincoln Financial telecast of Saturday's game.

Assuming Tim Floyd is rooted at USC, the most attractive replacement is Anthony Grant of Virginia Commonwealth. (General Sherman was the first president of LSU; so we might as well have a Grant as our coach.) Florida (where he was an assistant) hired him last year to replace Billy Donovan until Billy Magically changed his mind. However, South Carolina also needs a coach to replace Dave Odom who resigned effective at the end of the season. Considering LSU has had only two men's basketball coaches since 1972 (Dale Brown 25 years, then Brady for 11), this is a rare experience for the athletic department.

Biased Opinion 2/4/08: Lady Tigers Have a Chance

I like what I see from the LSU Women's Team. They have handily defeated all SEC foes so far. Of course, the two biggies loom on the horizon: Georgia (Feb. 10 in BR) and Tennessee (Feb. 14 in Kville). The Lady Tigers have progressed nicely under veteran coach Van Chancellor. After a disappointing start while learning his system, the team, with five senior starters, is firing on all cylinders. They have continued the strong defensive play instilled by Chancellor's predecessors Sue Gunter and Poky Chatman. However, they are playing much more freely and confidently on offense. Whereas I held little hope of beating the Mighty Vols when the season began, I now see an SEC title as a possibility. And maybe the team can reach the Final Four for the fifth straight year and this time win a game! I thought Chatman could recruit and coach the team only to a certain level (SEC title when we clearly had superior talent to UT but runner-up otherwise and national semis but no further). She was consistently outcoached in NCAA games, even in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight when her team's talent won anyway. Her first teams featured four WNBA first-round choices, including Player of the Year Simone Augustus. Yet they never reached the Finals. LSU consistently blew leads late in the game when the pressure got tight. Perhaps Van's experience and calm approach is what the team needs to play to its potential against top comptition. Van is also motivated to reach the first college Final Four of his coaching career. We'll learn what this team is made of in the next few weeks.

Biased Opinion 5/19/07: Cry Babies Can Play Exciting Games

I have enjoyed the NBA playoffs. It's true that some players behave as if they belong to the National cryBaby Association. Every call against them provokes a pouting tirade. However, the teams that are still playing are fun to watch. They have point guards who can get into the lane and create havoc for the defense. These teams are unselfish and move the ball on offense. All the Final Four teams (Detroit, Cleveland, San Antonio, and Utah) play defense. And in all games, even in the first round, there is consistent effort for 48 minutes. That doesn't happen during the 82-game season that forces players to conserve energy, usually on defense. Play has been exceedingly rough at times, straining referees' ability to officiate. However, that is the price paid for intensity of effort on both ends of the court. I'm picking the Pistons and Spurs to meet in the finals with San Antonio winning the championship.

Biased Opinion 5/12/07: Thank You, Color Commentators

I am so thankful to color commentators, especially for football and basketball games. They never let us get confused as to what sport we're watching. "I think this Warriors basketball team is ready to play a great basketball game here on their home basketball court. They are the surprise team of these basketball playoffs." If the commentator had not reminded me, I would have thought I was watching a football or baseball game. Announcers are also very good at reading the statistics and information that is on the screen. These are examples of the excess verbosity of today's broadcasts. A few years ago on ESPN Classic, I watched the 7th game of the 1952 World Series. Red Barber, the Dodger announcer, called the first half of the game by himself. Then Mel Allen, the Yankee announcer, soloed the rest of the way. They assumed viewers could see what they saw and didn't need a great deal of explanation. So they were silent for 10-15 seconds at a time! Imagine that on today's broadcasts! I do appreciate the statistics we get now, but the announcers don't have to read the batter's average, HRs, and RBIs when those figures are shown at the bottom of the screen. Announcers must get paid by the word. Some of us remember Ray Scott calling Packers games: "Starr ... Dowler ... first down." It's impossible to find that kind of understated play-by-play today.

Biased Opinion 5/4/07: Wake Me When the NBA Playoffs Start

For the first time since the NBA went to the seven-game first round playoff a few years ago, a #8 seed (Golden State) defeated a #1 seed (Dallas).

  • This again shows that the regular season is mostly pointless. So what if the Mavericks won more games than any other team. A team they did not match up well with that was healthy for the post-season ousted them. I hope volatile Dallas owner Mark Cuban doesn't have coach and native New Orleanian Avery Johnson's head on a platter because of the upset.
  • It was difficult for this Hornets fan (and many others, I'm sure) to watch Baron Davis lead the Warriors' upset. He is the talented jerk who sabotaged the Hornets playoffs chances in 2003-4 because he didn't want to play for Tim Floyd. Then he sat out all but 18 games in 2004-5 with "injuries" because he wanted to be traded. Think Michael Vick is a coach killer? So is this guy. Don Nelson is fortunate that Baron wants to play for him now. I'm sure Don knows that the worm can turn at any time.