NCAA Tournament 2012: 5 Reasons NCAA Must Bring Back 3rd-Place Game
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From 1946 until 1981, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship featured a consolation third-place game.
Virginia beat LSU, 78-74, for the bronze in the last consolation offered.
Until 1975, there were also consolation games played in the regional finals. At the time, the tournament only invited 32 teams, making the third round the entry into the Final Four.
The school of thought in eliminating the games was that they were unnecessary and it was difficult to get teams motivated to play.
Piffle, I say.
The NIT plays a consolation game. If the consolation tournament can get kids to play a consolation game, surely the Big Dance can find a way to sneak this gem in after 30 years of dormancy.
These are the reasons why I believe it would work.
The Awesome Matchups
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While athletes may be dejected after losing a Final Four game, the opportunity to play for something regains its appeal as soon as the players step on the court. If these were pickup games, the players would want to win, so why not have them be worth something?
Sometimes there are upsets. To be a Final Four team, a team cannot cheat its way in, but can get lucky.
If the NCAA never got rid of the consolation, here are some of the games we would have had a chance to see:
1991: UNLV-North Carolina
1998: Stanford-North Carolina
2001: Maryland-Michigan State
2008: North Carolina-UCLA
All coaches want to play more games. These games are usually going to be fantastic and the losers of the Final Four will surely want to end their seasons with a win, not a loss.
This game gives that opportunity.
Money for the Programs
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Someone much smarter than I knows the distribution of money among teams/schools that qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Being that there will most certainly be television revenue, ticket sales and any other generation of money, participating schools could have an equal share of money go towards their athletic departments for facilities, scholarships, etc.
They won’t give the money directly to the students (that’s another article for another time), but they can incentivize with a new weight room, players lounge or however schools choose to spend the dough.
I see no downside to this.
It Rewards Fans
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I would venture to guess that when a person buys a ticket for the Final Four, that person has already cleared Monday off of his or her schedule as the semis are played Saturday, but the championship game isn’t played until Monday.
There are two huge groups of fans who normally would sell their tickets to the championship game to the winning side’s fans and try to skip out of town early. The theory is that even though the game isn’t for the title, it is a game and could keep people in town and in the arena.
They’ve already booked their travel; why be in such a rush to get rid of them?
I know that if my team went to the Final Four and lost, I would be incredibly put out, but with a day to heal, I'd stay in town and still support them.
Sports give us a capacity to learn how to mourn. No one’s team wins every year, so we all have to learn how to deal with it. We can get over it quickly enough to show our support for a team that still wants to play for us.
Face Time for the Draft
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It’s difficult to make it to the Final Four without at least one NBA-caliber talent on the roster.
College basketball does not have the showcases that college football has, such as the Senior Bowl, the East-West game and so on.
Players who are locks to get drafted do not usually hurt their chances of getting drafted by playing poorly in the tournament, but a player who is a little under the radar could expose himself against top-level talent in a consolation game to give scouts one more glimpse.
I can already hear people saying that there is a chance a player could get hurt.
That chance exists in any game. Does a player stop playing in the middle of a season for fear of not making it to the pros?
A player who is going pro can get insurance from Lloyd’s of London or any other company that offers this kind of insurance.
Overall, the unlikely risk of a career-threatening injury should not deter the prospect of one more game.
The Lesson in Sportsmanship and Life
Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino shake hands after Louisville's win over Michigan State.
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I will sound like a codger here, but all too often, we hear from today’s youth that certain things don’t matter.
Why do I need math?
Why does it matter what I wear?
Why do you care if I curse?
Why do I have to go to school/work? My nose is stuffy!
Etc., etc., etc.
I believe we are failing our younger statesmen in the areas of class, dignity, self-awareness, humility and, above all, empathy.
OK, that does sound preachy, so I’ll move on.
The point is that playing this game—which is for third place, not first—shows sportsmanship. The players would be playing for their schools and fans. It would be humbling, but there is an important lesson above many.
Players playing in this game can show our youth that even when things are sad and we feel down, life still goes on and we have to continue to do our best. Whether they are on the basketball court, in the classroom or at an after-school job, bad things can and will happen. We have to cope and adapt.
What’s the harm in that lesson?