Tuesday Question: Which Final Four is bigger and better, basketball or football?
Can college football capture the magic of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and its Final Four weekend? Is college basketball’s finishing kick still the real Final Four, or has the College Football Playoff taken over?
Which Final Four is bigger and better – basketball or football?
The answers below in the weekly Tuesday Question.
While the idea of the Final Four is and always will be a college basketball thing, the College Football Playoff is quickly becoming more significant, and more importantly, a better representation of what a true four-team playoff should and could be.
Look at what’s happening with the 2016 college basketball Final Four. Kansas won the Big 12 championship for the bazillionth year in a row. It was the best team in the conference by a whopping three games over Oklahoma and two games over West Virginia, and proved it further by taking the Big 12 Conference Tournament title.
But Oklahoma is in the Final Four, and Kansas isn’t.
Kansas got a nice 2016 Big 12 Champion t-shirt, but all the accomplishments of the regular season are now meaningless – Oklahoma’s season is now better, just like the 2014 Kentucky team that got to the national championship had a better year than the historic 2015 version that didn’t.
Syracuse finished tied for ninth in the ACC, got hot for four games, and it’s in the Final Four. Essentially, college basketball’s national championship is determined by a gimmicky tournament – play this thing 15 different times and you’ll likely get 15 different Final Four combinations.
There’s nothing fluky whatsoever about getting into the College Football Playoff. You can’t luck your way into the tournament, and it’s a far, far better indication of who the best teams are, as opposed to the basketball version. Make the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament about conference champions only, and then you have something. But instead, as long as you’re not totally miserable, you should be able to get into the 68-team field.
Yeah, there was a problem with the timing and the dates for Year Two of the CFP, and the ratings took a massive dip, but it’s still the second year of the thing and it’s soon going to take on a life of its own. The college basketball Final Four is still bigger in the national consciousness, but the teams, the pressure, and don’t forget, the talent – the NFL prospect star power is bigger in the football version – make the football version simply a better final four playoff.
Listen, if the conversation centered on the totality of each postseason, March Madness routs a college bowl season that’s become increasingly bland, bloated and boring. But when comparing solely each Final Four, football has the edge in excitement and anticipation.
Hoops in March is just a phenomenal fan experience, with the interactive engagement that reaches every little corner of the map. But for all of its glory and shining moments, March Madness peaks on the first Thursday and Friday of the tourney, when pools still show potential and interest is at its highest. However, by the time April has arrived, fatigue has set in for many, especially for those no longer eligible for prize money and office bragging rights.
The bowl season, on the other hand, travels a disparate trajectory, building anticipation as the two biggest games approach. You’ve slept walked through a wave of December snoozers, few of which carry any imaginable meaning, so the hunger for impactful football games is at its highest as the Final Four nears. Plus, while the original Final Four has been around for more than 75 years, playoff college football is still very much a novelty for fans.
Now that the postseason has expanded in football, its Final Four has actually trumped hoops. Two great—and distinct—venues, loads of tremendous matchups to contemplate and a well-deserved reward for slogging through a month of bowl games generating more yawns than plotlines. Now, stop the silliness of staging games on the evening of New Year’s Eve and football’s Final Four will really be off and running.
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