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IF THE BCS RAN COLLEGE BASKETBALL Editor's note: Imagine
if conference commissioners ran college basketball
the way they run football. If, instead of an NCAA tournament,
in place of March Madness, there were a rankings system
to determine the national title-game participants.
No Sweet 16. No Final Four. We imagined it by devising
our own basketball computer standings and applying
the football selection process criteria from last year's
Bowl Championship Series rules manual. Times staff
writer Chris Dufresne offers this fictional account
of how final selections might have turned out:

BCS basket cases

It's hard to argue with an Ohio State-Kansas title-game matchup, but even when the system `works' there is bound to be controversy, and demand for a playoff

March 13, 2007|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

The much-maligned Basketball Championship Series standings spit out a title-game matchup Sunday and, for a change, the system may have, sort of, gulp, worked?

Not that the BCS was spared the usual "say what?" -- that much is a given in a sport that refuses to decide its champion with a tournament.

It's good to be an Ohio State Buckeye today, though, and a Kansas Jayhawk.

Those two storied basketball programs finished first and second in the BCS standings and will meet April 2 in Glendale, Ariz., for the national title.

The players should be well-rested.

"This proves the BCS works," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said on a conference call. "This proves we don't need a playoff."

Some folks in Gainesville, Fla., however, think they have been sold swampland.

Ohio State was a runaway No. 1 in the final standings with 99.92 points, and No. 2 Kansas edged out No. 3 Florida, the defending national champion, by a margin of 92.51 to 92.46.

"We can't defend our title because of five one-hundredths of a point?" Florida Coach Billy Donovan asked. "And you call this a fair system?"

One Florida congressman has already threatened to introduce a bill to outlaw the BCS (note: it was tried before in Texas, in football, but legislation was dropped the year Texas made its run to the BCS title.).

Kansas was clearly the people's choice for No. 2 this year, so strong in both human polls that it was able to survive a No. 11 ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index, the computer component used in the three-pronged BCS formula.

Florida was No. 3 in the polls and No. 6 in the RPI.

Florida will argue its conference, the Southeastern, was ranked No. 2 in the RPI while Kansas' conference, the Big 12, was seventh, one spot below the Missouri Valley.

Official BCS response: take it up at our spring meetings.

North Carolina finished fourth in the final standings, with 91.70 points, followed by UCLA, Memphis, Wisconsin, Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M.

Memphis, a member of a non-BCS league, Conference USA, earned an automatic BCS "basket bowl" bid by finishing in the BCS top 12.

So the final "basket bowl" lineup is set.

The Rose Basket, which lost No. 1 Ohio State to the title game, gets to replace its Big Ten anchor with Wisconsin.

The Badgers will meet Oregon, which clinched the Rose bid by winning last weekend's Pacific 10 Conference tournament.

"We're thrilled to keep our traditional and geographical matchup," Rose Basket chief executive Mitch Dorger said.

The Fiesta Basket will get at-large UCLA vs. at-large Memphis, the Sugar will pair Florida against at-large Texas A&M, and the Sugar will feature North Carolina against Georgetown, a rematch of 1982's "mythical" national title game that introduced the basketball world to a young Michael Jordan.

UCLA has to be kicking itself.

Two weekends ago, the Bruins were No. 2 in the BCS and appeared headed for a title showdown with Ohio State.

But late-season losses to Washington and California, two unranked teams, knocked UCLA to the Fiesta.

What cruel irony.

In 1998, the UCLA football squad needed only a late-season victory at Miami to clinch a spot in the first BCS national title football game, played that year in the Fiesta Bowl.

If only, against Miami, UCLA had brought its tackle box.

Maybe those BCS bosses aren't kidding when they say, in college basketball, it's all about the regular season.

Basketball purists will continue to clamor for a playoff.

Think of all those UCLA teams coached by John Wooden that had to settle for "mythical" national titles because the top-ranked Bruins were contracted to play the Big Ten champion in the Rose Basket?

Donovan said the BCS system "needs to be nuked" despite the fact the Florida football Gators won last season's national title after edging out Michigan by decimal points for the No. 2 BCS spot.

Donovan advocates a "tournament format" that might involve as many as, get this, 64 teams.

Dream on, right?

The Big Ten's Delany, a defender of the BCS, argues, "When will our student/athletes go to school?"

The controversial BCS system was developed in 1998 in an effort to pair No. 1 and No. 2 in a championship game.

Before that, conference champions were bound to specific "basket" bowl games, causing numerous split titles.

The BCS standings formula, which has been tweaked more than the carburetor on your old jalopy, is now composed of the Associated Press poll, the USA Today coaches' poll and the RPI.

This year's new "double dribble" format created a fifth BCS basket bowl to open up two more at-large possibilities for mid-major conferences that had claimed the sport was a monopoly.

Only the conference tournament winners of the six BCS conferences earn automatic bids to basket bowls.

So, will there ever be a playoff in college basketball?

Don't hold your breath.

College presidents, citing lost class time, have for years resisted the idea of a national tournament for Division I despite the fact there are playoffs at all other levels.

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