Sports commentary: Mr. Nice Guy

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The Big East tourney structure causes no complaints here

By Mike Forster

  Today is Ash Wednesday.

That means the season of Lent is upon us.

During this forty-day stretch before Easter Sunday, those who observe Lent are expected to give up something.

I’m giving up complaining.

Check that.  I have is a container with a slot in it.  Whenever I gripe, moan or complain, I will put some money into the box.

Those who regularly read this column probably have one reaction:  I hope that cash box is a big one.

OK.  There’s some merit to that sentiment.  I’ve used this space in the past to complain about a wide range of things:  playoff systems, the VHSL, unruly fan behavior, Brett Favre, the adulation of professional athletes, the abuse of animals, the cost of tickets, the paucity of tickets, the length of seasons.  

Hey, I bet I could do a column that just lists the things I have bemoaned in past columns.

At home, it’s even worse.  The wife has heard me complain (or, in her parlance “whine”) about such varied topics as politicians, the deficit, the Cubs, the Bills, the Golden Gophers, Congress, tax rates, tax codes, tax policy...

That list, too, if shown in full, could take up some serious space.  In fact, the wife has worked to limit grievance stimulators.  Do you know those control devices that allow parents to limit what their kids can view on the tube?

The wife has used such a device to block the following channels:  CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.  She’s also threatened to do the same to WGN if the Cubs continue to cause sturm and drang in our home. (I often refer to the Cubs as a slow drip of Texas Pete on my ulcer.)

But, never again!  At least, not for forty days and forty nights.  

So, with my fresh commitment to being more positive firmly in hand, let me introduce an upbeat topic for this column.

That topic is the Big East Conference’s basketball tournament.

Here is what makes this tourney special, at least in my mind:  It rewards the teams that did well during the regular season, while hampering those that did poorly.

The Big East tourney is set up so that the top four seeds (based on regular season performance) automatically make the tourney’s quarterfinals (that is, the final eight).

The four worst teams?  They have to win two games to qualify for the quarterfinals.

There are 16 teams in the Big East.  It would be logical and simple to set up a tourney where #1 plays #16, #2 plays #15, #3 plays #14, and so on.

Such a set up, while nice and neat, is prone to upsets.  While upsets can be fun, the Big East has made it so that you really have to earn your shot at an upset.

This year, Pittsburgh is the #1 team in the Big East.  DePaul is #16.  For DePaul to get a shot at Pitt, it must first beat #9 Connecticut.  If it gets by UConn, DePaul then must beat #8 Georgetown.

Only then would #16 get a shot at #1.  Only then, as I see it, would DePaul have earned that shot.  In reality, Pitt will most likely play Georgetown.

This is a great move by the Big East honchos.  It makes the regular-season performances that much more meaningful.  It also means that you’re likely to see a final that includes some top-quality teams, such as Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville or Syracuse (the top four seeds).

There are a lot of governing bodies that could learn a thing or two from this structure.  But I’m not going to call them out.

I refuse to point out how poorly these tournaments are set up and how they are ruining life on earth for us all.

Nope, I’m gonna keep it zipped.

After all, how can I lose my resolve on the very first day of Lent?