Written by Andrew Ottoson Thursday, 27 March 2008 06:53
Basketball is a strange, strange sport in the second-to-last week of March. But even with the chaos going on in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA tournament, the strangest basketball happenings are happening in the NBA.
As of the moment I sat down to write this, there are 11 teams with more than 37 wins in the West, and six teams with 46 or more.
Meanwhile, two or three completely boring and unwatchable teams are going to make the Eastern playoffs for no good reason.
Unless you count geography.
But as the NCAA tournament shows, sometimes the best games happen between teams with no apparent geographic connection.
Granted, looking at maps isn’t exactly a hobby of mine. Last time I looked at a map, I was trying to figure out which blacktops connect Peabody to Burns.
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Somebody, quick—call Amerigo Vespucci—I’m trying to figure out which blacktops connect San Diego and UConn.
Maybe the people who set the NCAA regionals had to work out a compromise between the teams.
Maybe they sent them both to Tampa—the sunny one on the Gulf Coast, not the one at 330th and Limestone—because it’s the only gym they could find south of Anaheim and east of Birmingham.
(Have you ever heard of the Coosa River? I hadn’t until today—thank you, Google.)
Anyway, the point is, deciding who plays in the playoffs based on whatever rivers are nearby or which time zones are involved, or latitude and longitude—it’s all completely arbitrary.
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Wouldn’t it be better for the NBA to set up its playoff system like the NCAA brackets?
If the season ended today, and David Stern decided to try my idea there would be a total of two conference crossover games.
The highest-seeded crossover game would be New Orleans against Cleveland. Try to tell me that’s not a much more interesting matchup than Cleveland against Washington.
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Chris Paul! LeBron James! It’s the NBA on NBC!
Well, not recently. But that NBA on NBC theme music by John Tesh is the greatest sports montage music ever made.
(I just found out that the song is called “Roundball Rock.” Thank you, Google.)
Anyway, the point is, basketball games are better with music by John Tesh. No, wait, that’s not the point here at all.
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The point here is that the NBA playoff system is not nearly as interesting as the NCAA system. And I’m a little bit surprised that the NBA wouldn’t even consider ripping off the idea.
As far as I’m concerned, Stern should expand the league by two teams (and leave the Sonics in Seattle) and completely revamp the playoffs to give every team the hope of at least one playoff game at the end of the year.
Let the teams with the top 12 records in without a “play-in” game. Everybody else plays a one-and-done elimination tournament for the final four spots.
The 13-16 teams get two bye rounds and a week of rest and preparation for whichever bottom-feeders come through, so they can’t complain.
And then the “real” playoffs can start, with the seven-game series and the officiating scandals and everything else that makes the NBA great.
And by the way, wouldn’t including everybody in a post-season tournament help solve that “10 teams tanking for a high draft pick” problem that comes around every year?