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March 23, 2014

Could the NCAA Tournament work for other sports?

(Continued)

McALESTER —

No other league, not even the mighty NFL with it’s awe-inspiring Super Bowl, appeals to the general public the way the NCAA Tournament does. And the NCAA’s pulled that off by basically turning the act of watching a game into a game itself.

So could the NCAA Tournament work for other sports or professional leagues? For football, probably not — football teams play only once a week because of how physically destructive the sport is, and so an NCAA-like tournament would take five or six weeks to finish.

But playing multiple games in a row is nothing new for professional baseball players, and basketball and hockey players can usually recover from a game with just a day or two of practice. So if MLB, the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League wants to get more people watching their teams, perhaps it should institute a tournament like the NCAA’s.

It wouldn’t be all that hard to create such a tournament, even though all three of the aforementioned leagues have only 30 teams. The two teams who competed in the previous championship — the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, for example — would receive one-seeds and automatic births into the round of 16.

The losers of the league championships — the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers — would also earn one-seeds, but they’d have to play in the round of 28. Lower seeds would be based on the previous season’s records and postseason standings — division winners could earn two-seeds, etc. — and from there it’d be a single-elimination just like in March Madness.

The NBA, NHL and MLB could all replace portions of their preseasons with such a tournament. For baseball, doing this could also take the place of the World Baseball Classic, which so far has done little more than confirm that while baseball is America’s pastime (whatever that means), the best baseball players are no longer born in America (Japan won the first two WBCs, then the Dominican Republic won in 2013).

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