The WBC and the NIT Made Relevant
Currently, two of the worst events in sports are underway: the World Baseball Classic and the National Invitational Tournament. The WBC is wrapping up with the championship game between Japan and Korea, while the NIT is just getting underway.
So why are these two tournaments so terrible? They are both plagued with the same two issues: caliber of play and timing of the event render them irrelevant.
Americans don't want to watch athletes compete that aren't the best in the world. The United States fielded a WBC team that was slapped together and played awkwardly.
Due to injuries, the Americans had both Adam Dunn and Mark DeRosa playing first base. Are those really the best two replacement first basemen the United states has to offer?
This same issue completely degrades the Not Important Tournament. Why would any of us care who the 65th best team in college basketball is? None of the NIT teams can hold a candle to the NCAA's Sweet 16.
Americans don't want to waste their time watching low class talent.
The other looming problem for both of these yawn-inducing tournaments is the horrendous timing. ESPN could air 24 hours of topless female mud-wrestling during the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament and my TV would stayed glued on CBS.
The NCAA basketball championship is the single most exciting time in sports. There is no college hoops fan who would choose to watch Auburn beat Tulsa in the NIT when they could be watching the thrilling conclusion of Gonzaga and Western Kentucky.
And really, only die hard baseball fans would choose the WBC over the NCAA. Ironically, the die hard baseball fans dismiss the WBC because it conflicts with the traditional spring training.
I don't want to see either of these two events scratched, because in theory they could be great. If the WBC were pushed back to just after the Super Bowl, and the United States created a team that took it seriously, like USA Basketball has for the Olympics, people would watch.
This would give the event better timing and would establish a team that Americans could truly identify with. Like the WBC, the NIT should move to appearing once every four years (on a non-Olympic year).
The NIT should take place in the summer, shortly before the school year starts in early August. The tournament should be a 16-team single elimination bracket and the four previous NCAA champions should be the No. 1 seeds with the four previous runners-up being the two seeds (at-large bids can fill spots for teams that made it to multiple championship games).
The other eight spots will be at-large bids to teams that had been consistently strong over the previous four years; four to major conferences and four to mid-majors.
This would be an entertaining and exciting tournament at a time when the baseball race is just picking up and football is still in boring preseason. It would be a real shot in the arm of the sports world and would create an experience not only unique to the NCAA, but basketball in general. Wouldn't you watch this tournament? I would; I would love it.
By simply addressing the obvious flaws in both the World Baseball Classic and the National Invitational Tournament, both could be relevant by their next go around in 2013. When it happens, remember that you heard it here first.
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