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Post Man’s search for a meaningful regular season

Tuesday July 7, 2009

Blutarsky needs no help pointing out the faulty thinking underneath John Feinstein’s latest column railing against the BCS, but I’m still amazed that Feinstein concedes that college basketball has more or less a three-week regular season.

It’s true that one of the biggest tradeoffs between college basketball’s emphasis on the postseason and college football’s emphasis on the regular season is the quality of regular season nonconference games. Because a loss or two during the regular season for a college basketball contender isn’t the death knell that it might be for a football contender, basketball fans get some very high-quality matchups. In two of the last three basketball seasons, the national finalists had played each other earlier in the season.

But, as Feinstein unintentionally implies, those great pre-January games are little more than exhibitions because the games that get the real scrutiny are those “played the last three weeks of the season.” College basketball did itself a great disservice by marginalizing those major early-season clashes. A team’s performance in its final 12 games was one of the selection criteria used in determining the NCAA Tournament field, essentially setting aside portions of the regular season as less important.

Feinstein’s view of the three-week college basketball regular season was so entrenched in the sport that the NCAA recently had to clarify that a basketball team’s final 12 regular season games will no longer be considered as part of the selection criteria. “Parsing a particular segment of games and implying it had greater weight than others seemed misleading and inconsistent,” said SEC Commissioner and Division I Men’s Basketball Committee chair Mike Slive.

Feinstein asks, “Are the BCS apologists trying to say that the college basketball regular season has no meaning?” It’s not just the BCS apologists, John. The recent admission and correction by Slive’s committee is proof enough that even college basketball’s inner circle is struggling with the issue.

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