RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Written in 2015.
May Madness! Or should it be June Madness? Or maybe May-to-June Madness, as it plays out in two different months? Well, it starts at the end of May and goes into the end of June, so most games are played in June.
Regardless of what to officially call it, I love the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, which culminates into the College World Series. In fact, I love it in the same way that I love March Madness a.k.a. the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (I like the Women’s one too and the NIT Tournament).
The thing is, every time March rolls around, people all over America print their brackets, fill them out and duke it out with their friends over who knows the sport best. Truthfully, most people only watch the sport during March Madness and really don’t know as much as they think they do. But that is the cool thing about it, playing some stupid bracket game sparks a lot of interest in college basketball: ratings soar and everyone is glued to the television come Final Four time. College baseball could certainly use a similar spark and people could use some good summertime fun.
The thing that makes March Madness so exciting is the insane amount of teams that are in the tournament. College baseball is similar in that there are 64 teams in their tournament (out of 298 Division I programs), the same amount as the basketball tournament before they expanded it to 68 just a few years ago (a change I still don’t get). Additionally, like the basketball tournament, the conference winners get automatic bids and the rest of the field is selected by an NCAA committee.
However, there are a few things that make the baseball tournament different than the basketball tournament.
In March Madness, the basketball teams play in a “one and done” scenario. You lose once, you’re out of the tournament and that’s it. In the baseball tournament, it is a bit more complicated although more interesting.
In college baseball, teams don’t find themselves in a “one and done” situation. They are divided into sixteen regional brackets with a double-elimination format. Regional champions then face each other in eight Super Regionals. The eight winners of those contests then go on to be the participants in the College World Series, which is essentially baseball’s version of basketball’s Final Four, except there are eight teams instead of four.
In the College World Series, teams are split into two groups of four and play a double-elimination format. When it gets down to the final four teams, they play in a best of three series in the semifinals and finals.
It is harder for the average Joe to follow but those of us who follow collegiate baseball, don’t find it that difficult and like the fact that it is a more complex playoff system. Although, it isn’t perfect and for the betterment of the sport, I’m not opposed to some changes to make it more accessible to the masses. Besides, with more accessibility comes more viewership and hopefully, a lot more excitement which will only better the sport of baseball at the collegiate level.
The “one and done” style of college basketball and the large number of participants is what makes it really unpredictable and exciting. Upsets happen on a pretty frequent basis but no one seems to have a problem with the system, as it is. Well, the vast majority of people, anyway.
College baseball could benefit from getting rid of the double-elimination format and go for a straight up 64 team bracket. However, to make it more balanced to what currently exists, I would propose making each round a best of three series, which would still require a double-elimination (or two-loss) scenario.
Where this would make May Madness more exciting than March Madness is that people filling out their brackets could have the option of picking the winner and the amount of games played – a good way to determine tiebreakers.
I’d also like to see the baseball Final Four expand to at least a best of five series: seven would be better.
I’m just a fan of college baseball and a fan of March Madness and think that the energy surrounding the NCAA Basketball Tournament could carry over to another great sport with a similar playoff system already in play. Besides, it’s not like you can do this with college football, which just started a playoff system that is only comprised of four teams. And I love NCAA hockey but they don’t have enough teams to have anything bigger than a sixteen team tournament.
College baseball is the only thing that could provide the world with a proper spin-off of the mega successful March Madness monster. Besides, what else is going on in sports this time of year? Football, hockey and basketball are in their off season and Major League Baseball is in the long drawn out middle of their regular season: gearing up for a joke of an All-Star Game.
Well, I guess I’ll watch the third and final game of the College World Series tonight and continue to dream of a sport that could grow much larger and potentially open the doors of bracketology pandemonium during the summer.