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Astounding Breakthrough in Tournament Design

2009 November 10
by Brad Humphreys

Not sure if you noticed it, but college basketball started last night. The schedule still needs fixing. The NCAA men’s championship game takes place before the start of baseball season, but the World Series ended last week. If MLB adds a few more rest days to the postseason schedule, or the NCAA pushes the start of the season back a few days, we will reach Nirvana (located just outside Bristol, CT), where college hoops and MLB fully overlap, providing round-the-calendar sports action.

Anyway, college basketball starts off this year with the 2K Sports Classic, which is billed as a basketball “tournament.” I have some old fashioned ideas about how tournaments work. A dated, 20th century notion that in knockout tournaments two teams play a game or a series and the winner advances to the next round while the loser is either eliminated, or perhaps moves to the losers’ bracket in some cases (I am open to the idea of a losers’ bracket – it works in the College World Series, for example). The problem with my quaint idea of how a tournament should work is that sometimes unexpected events take place – we called them “upsets” back in the day – and a team like Gardner Webb would beat Kentucky at home, advancing to the widely televised later rounds, thus taking up valuable tee-vee exposure and drawing miniscule viewing audiences.

Thanks to the astounding developments made by the Gazelle Group, organizers of the 2K Sports Classic, those pesky “upsets” have been eliminated from their “tournament.” Here’s how it works. The tournament participants are divided into “hosts” (the Big Boys: Syracuse, North Carolina, Ohio State and Cal), and the “others” (Albany, FIU, Alcorn State, Murray State, Robert Morris, NC Central, Detroit and James Madison). In the “Regional Round,” the Big Boys play two games each and the others play one game. Regardless of the outcome of these games, the Big Boys “advance” to Madison Square Garden in NYC to play in the Championship Rounds on the Deuce; the other teams move to the “Subregional Rounds” to play additional games in an “undisclosed location” presided over by former vice president Dick Cheney.

As far as I can tell, the “Championship Round” games will be decided by points scored. In the future, the outcome of these games should be decided by the size of the revenues generated, with the teams drawing the most “supporters,” as measured by $0.99 text messages sent to the Gazelle Group, advancing to the championship game.

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