NCAA Tournament 2012: Why NBA Must Adopt March Madness Format
March Madness is the most unique sporting event in the country.
In almost no other sport or league is there a single-elimination tournament, set up so that the national title favorite could conceivably lose in the first or second round to a mid-major school that no one has heard of.
The NBA adopts a more traditional best-of-seven series in which the first team to win four games advances to the next round.
But what if it didn’t?
What if they NBA went out on a limb and said, hey, we have some of the most talented athletes in the entire world, let’s make them play the most important game of their lives for four games in a row.
How much fun would that be?
I want to see the Memphis Grizzlies get to the finals on guts and hard work alone. I want to see Linsanity in single-elimination games for two straight weeks.
Not convinced yet?
Here are seven more reasons to whet your appetite.
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In the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Golden State Warriors became the first eight seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in a best-of-seven series.
Granted, in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, no 16-seed has ever beaten a No. 1 seed, but an eight-seed over a one-seed? Happens all the time (in comparison).
Everyone knows that the best part of March Madness is the upsets. That’s why it’s called madness, after all.
Who predicted that 15-seed Norfolk State would beat the No. 2 Missouri Tigers this year? Very few people, but I guarantee that everyone that did made it very well known.
In the NCAA Tournament, every upset is possible.
In the NBA, teams have to play four games just to get out of the series, regardless of whether or not they are clearly the better team.
Wouldn’t it be more fun if the better team could win by 25 points if it were, in fact, the better coached and better prepared team in the playoffs…but if it weren’t, that team would have every right to be exposed.
How great would it be if Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns put together a great game plan and out-executed Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Would Nash have a championship ring by now if the NBA had a single-elimination tournament? I’d bet so.
Or if the Cleveland Cavaliers somehow grabbed that eighth and final playoff spot and miraculously beat LeBron James and the title-favorite Miami Heat? That is the stuff myths are made of.
The NBA Playoffs would only be more fun if the upset potential were higher.
Draymond Green recorded his second triple-double in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in the Michigan State Spartans’ win over LIU Brooklyn. He had a monster game, and his incredible production is one of the reasons the Spartans are national title contenders.
Purdue's Robbie Hummel was able to end his career on a high note, scorching the Kansas Jayhawks for 26 points and nine rebounds in his last collegiate game.
Yes, in the NBA Playoffs, certain players can have a great series, and even great playoffs. But it is much harder to isolate one game in which a player willed his team to victory and onto the next round.
Take Rajon Rondo, for example. He has posted 16 triple doubles in his career. Imagine if he had a monster 25, 17 and 15 night for the Boston Celtics against, say, the Miami Heat or Chicago Bulls, propelling the Celtics to a victory and a spot in the next round of the playoffs.
Rondo could go down as a Boston hero, responsible for almost single-handedly continuing Boston’s season.
Instead, his triple-double would be a very important note in an entire series of games.
Game 7 performances are always ranked higher on the list of incredible games than are Game 1 or Game 3 performances because Game 7's are do or die.
Game 7 mimics the NCAA Tournament, which is why those games are so much more important—win or go home.
When a player turns in his best performance on that stage, it is truly impressive. Imagine if every game were like a Game 7.
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Who doesn’t fill out an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket anymore?
It seems like everyone does it these days—librarians, grandmothers, seven-year old kids, the list goes on.
So what if people were filling out a bracket for the NBA Playoffs? I predict there would be even more participation.
For one thing, the teams are better known.
There are so many college basketball teams, and especially with the rise of mid-majors, it is almost impossible for an average fan to know every team and every player that is in the NCAA Tournament.
In the NBA, the teams never change. Sure, players may move around, but more often than not, when major stars change teams, most of the public will know.
Brackets will be more competitive, better anticipated and fun for the whole family! Who doesn’t want to pick Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to beat the Los Angeles Lakers and finally take control of L.A.?
The NBA Playoffs already have a large following, but brackets would only intensify its fanbase. People would tune in all over the country to see if their opening-round upset of Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks over the Miami Heat would come to fruition.
After the NCAA Tournament is over, is there anyone in America who is thinking, “Man, I’m so glad I don’t have to fill out another bracket until next March”?
No! Everyone is ready for brackets round two! Make it happen, NBA!
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Currently, there are 16 teams in the NBA that are granted the opportunity to play in the playoffs—eight teams from each conference.
What if that number was upped to 20 teams? What would happen to the first-round upsets in that case? How would that affect the trade deadline?
Most importantly, how much more exciting would the NBA be?
In college basketball, one of the most important things for a team is to be peaking at the right time. The North Carolina State Wolfpack looks like a bonafide four-seed right now, ripping through opponents right and left. Only it is an 11-seed, making its early season losses fade from everyone’s memory.
Who could that be in the NBA?
Might the Washington Wizards, with the new addition of Nene, leap into that last playoff spot, confidence renewed, and upset a team or two? Or maybe the Cavaliers could trade for someone like Pau Gasol at the trade deadline and suddenly become a juggernaut.
None of these things will happen this year, of course, but what if?
Early on in the season, the Cincinnati Bearcats looked miserable, losing to teams like the Presbyterian Blue Horse (blue horse…really?) and Marshall Thundering Herd. But now, the Bearcats are in the Sweet 16, looking like anything but the bumbling group it was.
There can be a dark horse again. Not like the Golden State Warriors, who improbably beat the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, but then predictably lost to the Utah Jazz four games to one.
Dark horse as in the VCU Rams circa 2011 or George Mason in 2006. A team that makes it to the bitter end, not one that bows out gracefully in the second round.
Events like the trade deadline would have more drama, the NBA regular season would be watched more frequently and the playoffs would definitely be more exciting.
Rest for All Teams and Players
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The NBA Playoffs are very, very long.
Teams that advance to the finals have to play at least 16 games more than a team that doesn’t make the playoffs at all. And that is if it sweeps every game.
While of course every NBA player wants to be playing in June, there is a clear fatigue issue that might enter in to the equation.
That’s not even taking into account pitting a team that wins its series in four games against another team that must play seven games. Who has the advantage in that matchup?
Many other NBA players, like Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, must also think about an international schedule and playing for their countries in the World Basketball Championships.
There are simply too many games in the playoffs and teams are worked too hard. Taking into account the flying back and forth from places like Miami and San Francisco, and it becomes even more taxing.
So why not one game per round, slice off the possible games by 12 minimum and give NBA players a bit of rest during the offseason.
That is what the offseason is for, right?
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I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but there was this thing called Linsanity that kind of rocked the nation.
Jeremy Lin, an almost completely unknown NBA rookie from Harvard, catapulted the New York Knicks to a seven-game winning streak and suddenly gave their season a purpose.
The media was all over Lin’s improbable rise to stardom, trying to fit as many puns as possible into a short news headline. Fans rushed out to buy Lin jerseys, put Lin on their fantasy team or simply watch him play.
In other words, Lin captivated almost everyone in the country.
So what if his incredible performance had come during the playoffs?
Think Kemba Walker last year, only if Walker had barely played in his time as a Connecticut Huskie and was finally given a chance in the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Maybe like Kyle O’Quinn or C.J. McCollum this year, only if their team had been a bit more well-known and advanced a little farther in the tournament.
It would be utter pandemonium.
Did anyone know who Bryce Drew was before the 1998 NCAA Tournament? Not many. But everyone knows who he is now.
Or Gordon Hayward in 2010?
The NCAA Tournament is where stars are born and where completely unknown players become legends. The same thing could happen in the NBA.
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Why should you never ask LeBron James for change for a dollar?
Because he never gives you the fourth quarter.
That was the most popular joke circulating around NBA fans this past summer when LeBron James yet again choked in the fourth quarter of the NBA Finals and failed to win a ring.
One more advantage of the NBA adopting a single-elimination tournament is that clutch players would be far more obvious and those that choked would be paraded in public for everyone to see.
If James really has a mental block and cannot perform when the pressure his on, it will be painfully (or gleefully, depending on your allegiances) obvious in a win-or-go-home playoffs.
But on the other hand, a team has a player like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant, who can simply take over whenever he wants (unless he shoots 3-for-20 that is…), will have a huge advantage.
Certain players can make or break their entire careers on the playoffs alone. In a single-elimination tournament where every game matters, there will be that much more pressure to perform.
Fans want to know who is up to the challenge.
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Who wouldn’t want to see Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis fight for their lives against the Chicago Bulls or Miami Heat?
Wouldn’t that be one of the most exciting NBA Playoff games ever?
The NBA is littered with young stars right now. From Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant to Kenneth Faried and Kyrie Irving, every team has a 25-or-younger guy willing to do anything it takes to win games.
For some of those players to not even get to taste the playoffs is simply unfair.
Allowing up-and-coming stars to perform on the biggest stage would not only be a way to showcase young talent, it would be a way to draw in more fans for the next season.
Teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers do not have huge followings simply because their location makes it hard for many people to see their games.
Los Angeles is a different story, but for many teams on the West Coast, their games simply do not air early enough for many NBA fans to watch, and since their location does not automatically generate a large fanbase, many never go out of their way to watch either.
How many people have seen Ricky Rubio live versus Jameer Nelson? And who is the more exciting point guard?
If the NBA’s new talent had a chance to play in front of a national audience in an thrilling format like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, it would undoubtedly garner more fans.
Just think of the people around the country who jumped on the Butler bandwagon or the Texas Bandwagon for Kevin Durant or even BYU for Jimmer Fredette.
The NBA can make it happen too.