College Football Playoff: Why Four Teams Aren’t Enough

No. 1 Mississippi State remains in the driver's seat to be the top-ranked team int he playoff (Photo: USA TODAY Sports )

No. 1 Mississippi State remains in the driver’s seat to be the top-ranked team int he playoff (Photo: USA TODAY Sports )

“Four teams aren’t enough.”

I said that the second I heard that a four-team playoff was introduced to College Football. I was met with the expected response that the teams would sort it out and there would only be four deserving teams at the end of the year. I laughed. We must not have been watching the same sport for the last 10 years.

And here we are.

The season is coming to a close and there is absolute chaos. Florida State has been struggling, but looks to remain undefeated and a miracle season by Duke could have them and FSU with one loss at the end of the year. Baylor and TCU both have one loss and have already played each other (plus the Big 12 has no championship game). Alabama and Mississippi State could both end the season with one loss. Ohio State or Nebraska could end the season with one loss, as well as Oregon or Arizona State. All of this is happening and there are only three weeks left.

Let’s get into why exactly more than four teams should be in the playoff.

There are five power conferences.

Power conferences are not made alike. Using the eye test alone, the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12 are much different than the rushing attack-oriented Big 10. Each conference has its own flavor, as well as its own strengths. Who is to say that Florida State wouldn’t get a loss in the Pac 12? Who’s to say that 2-loss Kansas State wouldn’t have one loss in the Big 10? We simply don’t know because the conferences don’t really play each other. If a conference is a “power conference,” its champion should be in the playoff. There should be some sort of requirement, however, to ensure that the conference champion is one of the best teams in the nation. An example could be that the champion has less than three losses or maybe it is ranked 12th or better. If a team wins a conference, it is the best team in the conference and it did enough to prove that. Let the conferences sort it out. With a six-team playoff, there is an extra spot for Notre Dame, a BCS buster, or possibly a second team from a big conference. An eight-team playoff would remove even more doubt.

The Baylor-TCU situation from this season.

This was a conundrum I saw coming from a mile away. What happens when two one-loss teams play each other and the team that won that game loses to a sorry opponent? The team that won between the two will be devalued due to a bad loss and the team that lost that tiebreaker will have a better loss (TO THE OTHER TEAM). Couple this with the team that lost the head-to-head playing better football when the playoff comes around and the problem appears. For instance, this year, Baylor and TCU both have one loss, but Baylor beat TCU 61-58 when they played. Baylor followed that win with a horrible 41-27 loss to unranked West Virginia. Because of this, TCU is ranked higher than Baylor in every national poll despite losing to Baylor. In many mock playoff selections, TCU has been popping up, but not Baylor. If both teams win out, this is going to be a a sticky situation.

The Alabama-LSU situation from 2011 or Alabama-Auburn situation from 2013

In 2011, Alabama missed four field goals during a 9-6 loss versus LSU. In 2013, A last-second Alabama field goal didn’t go far enough and was caught by Auburn’s Chris Davis, who then returned the now technical punt 100 yards for the game winning touchdown. I can’t think of two other games in College Football history than left viewers staring at the screen more unsure if the better team won the game. With a 4-team playoff, neither loser of those games should get another chance. The 2011 National Championship between two SEC teams was the most pathetic joke I’ve ever seen in sports (How can a team that couldn’t win its own half of its conference deserve to fight to be the best team in the nation over other conference champions?) However, in a 8-team playoff, it’s fair-game and that losing team would still be in. The better team lost on that given day? Prove it in the new bigger playoff.

When a conference champion loses a game because of injury but regains form come playoff time.

This is a specific example, but it is one that affects Ohio State and Arizona State, none-the-less. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller was knocked out for the season due to injury 11 days before the season started. Freshman back-up J.T. Barrett came in and looked awful. Ohio State looked sloppy against Navy, then lost against Virginia Tech. Barrett was shaken and couldn’t do anything right. Seven games later into the season and Ohio State is unstoppable and Barrett just dismantled Michigan State, which was statistically one of the best defenses in the nation. OSU also has gained at least 49 points and 533 yards in six of its last seven games Obviously this argument only works for a conference champion, but it is obvious that this is not the same team that lost to Virginia Tech. Because the Virginia Tech loss is the worst out of all of the contenders, this four-team playoff system will leave Ohio State and all of us will miss out on a potentially great team competing for the trophy.

Arizona State also fell victim to injury and lost starting quarterback Taylor Kelley for three games. In backup QB Mike Bercovici’s first game, ASU looked awful and turned the ball over four times. UCLA throttled them 62-27 in a game that is hardly representative of the team that just beat No. 10 Notre Dame 55-31.That 35-point loss is going to keep being brought up if ASU wins the Pac 12 and analysts are looking for every reason why certain contenders shouldn’t be in the playoff. Like Ohio State, Arizona State now is not the same team that played in their lone loss.

A four-team playoff is better than the two-team National Championship of last year, but it still isn’t enough. It is better to have all of the real contenders with a couple pretenders, just like the systems of every other major sport. The current system leaves teams that have proved they’re among the nation’s best sitting at home. The sport, the teams, and the fans would all be better off with a playoff that features more than four teams. That’s my opinion.

-Marty F. Nemec


Why you shouldn’t miss Game Five of the NBA Finals (NBA)

The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat have been involved in a basketball chess match for the ages, but like all games of chess, it will ultimately come to an end.

Game Five is the first step to getting there, but is it worth watching?

Can center Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs respond in Game Five against the Miami Heat? (Photo uncredited but used by newsbasket-beafrika)

Can center Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs respond in Game Five against the Miami Heat? (Photo uncredited but used by newsbasket-beafrika)

The main goal of every team coming into the NBA season is to win the NBA championship. Teams that won Game Five after being tied 2-2 in the current model of the NBA Finals have won the trophy 70 percent of the time. The Miami Heat have alternated wins and losses for the last three weeks and if that trend continues, it is their turn to lose. The Spurs also haven’t lost twice in a row in the playoffs.

Even more important is the fact that no team has ever won Games Six and Seven on the road in the 2-3-2 model. Since the last two games of the NBA Finals will be played in Miami, San Antonio will have to do something unprecedented to win the championship if they lose Game Five.

If you watched Game Four, there was something noticeable to everyone who saw Dwyane Wade. He actually looked like Dwyane Wade. After a lackluster showing for much of the playoffs, Wade looked like 2006 Flash as he carved San Antonio’s defense apart and scored 32 points. He also was a force on defense and nabbed six steals. Can Wade keep it up? The mere question makes the game worth watching.

Manu Ginobili has been a no-show during the NBA Finals. Probability would say he is due for a good game. In Game Four, Ginobili scored five points and held the worst point differential on the team as the Spurs were outscored by 22 points when he was on the court. The fact that he played only 26 minutes, nearly just half of the game, while still being outscored that much is alarming. What is lost is that Ginobili averaged almost 12 points per game this year and is a member of San Antonio’s “Big Three.” Ginobili has always been a great player who played better when the chips were on the table. He has had an awful Finals so far, but don’t think for a second that Ginobili isn’t capable of a great game. Don’t be surprised if Game Five is that great game.

Also watch for the unbelievable coaches in this game. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has his team in the NBA Finals for the third year in a row and won it last year. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches to ever exist. The fact that his teams are 4-0 in the NBA Finals speaks for itself.

Moral of the story?

Watch Game Five of the NBA Finals!

-Marty F. Nemec

LeBron James’ epic block on Tiago Splitter (NBA)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James was having a tough night during most of the first three quarters of Game 2 of the NBA Finals. He was active defensively and was passing moderately well, but he didn’t have a noticeable impact on the game during that time. That changed when Tiago Splitter ran down the middle of the paint and jumped for what would have been a strong one-handed slam dunk. Instead of getting that dunk everyone assumed was coming, something happened.

LeBron happened.

The crowd became energized and the Heat, with James included, ran away with the lead and never looked back. Many people are pointing out that James stood still and gloated while his team was forced to play four on five. I will point out that while that did happen, on that exact possession, James caught up to his team and assisted shooting guard Ray Allen on a three-pointer.

Was that the best block of the year? Did it beat Indiana’s Roy Hibbert’s block on New York’s Carmelo Anthony?

-Marty F. Nemec

Some random facts about the 2013 NBA Finals (NBA)

The Indiana Pacers almost beat the Miami Heat, so that means the San Antonio Spurs will win. Right?


That’s not to say the Spurs won’t win, but no deductions can be made from the Pacers’ success against the Heat. This Spurs team is nothing like the Pacers. The Pacers lived on defense, using the best defense in the league to pace an offense that struggled more than they would have liked. The Spurs’ offense is actually quite capable and their defense is nowhere near the level of Indiana’s.

Here are some random things to know before the NBA Finals start:

LeBron James and the Miami Heat were tested against the Indiana Pacers (Photo by: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

LeBron James and the Miami Heat were tested against the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Spurs statistically have a better offense than the Heat

Despite only scoring a tenth of a point more per game than the Heat in the regular season (103-102.9), this is still an important point. The point is made further by the fact that San Antonio is averaging 101.6 points per game in the postseason, while Miami is only averaging 91.7 points per game, 98.6 outside that grueling Indiana series. Miami did have the short end of the stick, however, because the average of all three playoff opponents’ defenses is 8th, while San Antonio’s average defense played is 14th.

The gap between the two teams’ defenses has opened during the playoffs

Miami barely had a better defense during the regular season, giving up an average of 95 points per game. The Spurs gave up an average of 96.6 points per game. During the playoffs, the Heat have cut their average down to 87.6 points per game. The Spurs have similarly cut their points given up and have lowered it to 91.5, but the regular season of 1.6 points is much smaller than the playoff gap of 3.9 points. The Heat have had to live on their defense and that defense could frustrate San Antonio.

The Spurs have never lost Game One of the NBA Finals

Tim Duncan is no stranger to the NBA Finals, having won them four times (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Tim Duncan is no stranger to the NBA Finals, having won them four times. (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

This is an interesting point, especially with Miami’s dominance on their home court (44-6 at home). The Spurs obviously have a tradition of starting hot, but it is worth noting that San Antonio was the home team in all four of those Game Ones. Miami is a completely different team at the AmericanAirlines Arena, so beating them in Game One will be a tall order.

Teams that have played in a Game Seven have a losing record in the NBA Finals

Teams that have played in at least one Game Seven are 23-25 in the NBA Finals. It’s almost even, but there is definitely something draining about playing in a seven-game series. It is even more draining when you play Chicago and Indiana in back-to-back series because they are two of the most physical teams in the league. Miami is going to be weary and it will be facing a well-rested San Antonio team. Miami won the Eastern Conference Final last year in seven games and still won the NBA Finals.

This is not the same LeBron James as in the 2007 NBA Finals

The Cleveland Cavaliers had no answer for the “Big Three” of San Antonio in 2007, getting swept right out of the NBA Finals. LeBron James was in his fourth year at the time and had not transcended into godhood yet. James was not yet considered the best player on the planet and was nowhere near considered the best defender in the NBA when he decides to shut his opponent down. James didn’t even have an NBA MVP trophy yet. He now has four. James had great stats that year, but he completely disappeared in the NBA Finals. That is something that most likely won’t happen again for the rest of his career.

Tim Duncan has as many rings as Miami’s “Big Three” combined

This may just speak for how old “The Big Fundamental” is, but how could I not write that? That is one of the coolest stats there is and people don’t talk about the greatness that is Tim Duncan enough. This Spurs team is very experienced and no one as much as the three-time NBA Finals MVP, Timmy-D.

Do you have any random facts or stats? I’d love to hear them. Comment below.

-Marty F. Nemec

The Pacers’ keys to winning against the Miami Heat (NBA)

The Miami Heat have mostly coasted their way through their last 52 games. It’s not an insult. It’s a testament to their greatness.

But one thing is certain: The Heat haven’t played a team like these Pacers right now.

The Heat have lived on streaks, playing sloppily in first halves, then exploding for late game scoring bursts to win game by single digits. It is so commonplace that Miami can be losing by over 10 points in the first quarter and no one raises an eyebrow. They always come back.

Well, before they played in this series against the Pacers, that is.

The Pacers aren’t just any team. They aren’t the most talented team, nor do they own a superstar, although forward Paul George and center Roy Hibbert are getting there. The Pacers simply are a great, determined team that is built to beat the Miami Heat. Miami lacks size and cannot counter big bodies in the paint. They aren’t exceptional at defensive rebounding and are awful off the offensive glass. They have no player that can successfully guard Hibbert and George is actually doing a decent job at containing Miami forward LeBron James enough to keep the Pacers in the game.

The Pacers’ backs are against the wall, but they have done many things right. This series isn’t over, but what can they do to win?

Here are a few things:

Hibbert needs to get rebounds on both sides of the court.

Indiana Pacer centerRoy Hibbert (55) shoots over Miami Heat center Chris Andersen (11) during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals. Photo by: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Indiana Pacer center Roy Hibbert (55) shoots over Miami Heat center Chris Andersen (31) during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals. Photo by: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Pacers are at their best when their big man is corralling missed shots. While Hibbert is averaging nearly the same offensive and defensive rebounds per game in both the wins and losses in this series, he did not get those averages similarly. In the wins, Hibbert had nearly the same amount of offensive and defensive rebounds. In Game Four, he had six of each, and in Game Two, he had six offensive and four defensive rebounds. In the losses, the numbers are skewed by a superb Game Three performance where he pulled in 17 rebounds. If you take away that game, he is only averaging 4.5 offensive rebounds, 3 defensive rebounds and 7.5 total rebounds. Those averages are almost on par with his averages during the regular season, but he is playing Miami now and his team needs more. In the wins, Hibbert averaged six offensive rebounds, five defensive rebounds and eleven rebounds per game, which is a noticeable change from the losses.

Keep limiting Miami’s three-point shooters.

Miami Heat forward Shane Battier (31) has had trouble shooting against the vaunted Indiana Pacer defense in this series. (Photo by: Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

Miami Heat forward Shane Battier (31) has had trouble shooting against the vaunted Indiana Pacer defense in this series. (Photo by: Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel)

Last year, Miami’s Shane Battier and Mike Miller’s three-point shooting carried the Heat through the playoffs, providing a spark every time the team needed it. The Pacers have completely eliminated that threat and Miami has noticeably suffered because of it. Ray Allen and Shane Battier, Miami’s best three-point shooters, have had a rough time from beyond the arc. Allen is shooting 30 percent (6-of-20) on three-pointers, which is markedly lower from his season-average of 42 percent. Allen also only made one three-pointer over the first two games of the series. Shane Battier has been absolutely dreadful, shooting 13 percent when his regular season average was 43 percent. Battier has also been shut out in scoring twice this series. Allen and Battier are both averaging over four points less than in the regular season, but the problems are so much deeper than that. Those eight points per game are important, don’t get me wrong, but when a team has a consistent three-point threat, it spaces the floor and forces defenders to close out the perimeter shooters. With Roy Hibbert guarding the basket, Miami needs to give their players as much space as possible to work against Hibbert. As long as the three-point threat isn’t there, Indiana will continue to frustrate guards Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, and to a lesser extent, LeBron James.

Paul George needs to keep being Indiana’s LeBron James.

Indiana Pacer forward Paul George has been battling Miami forward LeBron James both literally and on the stat sheet. (Photo by: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Indiana Pacer forward Paul George (24) has been battling Miami forward LeBron James (6) both literally and on the stat sheet. (Photo by: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It is remarkable how fast Paul George has grown as a player. Last year, he was just another player on an incredibly balanced Pacers team. This year, he transformed into a star, and the playoffs have transformed him yet again. He is now a leader. While certain Pacers have shrunk in key moments, George has stood tall. Paul George isn’t quite LeBron James, and the numbers will show that, but George is becoming a guy that can do it all and he’s doing it at just the right time. Here are the two players compared in the major stat categories.

Name Pts Reb Ast Stl Blk FG%
LeBron James 28.4 7.2 5.4 1.2 1.6 .53
Paul George 20.2 5.4 5.4 0.2 0.4 .46

As you can see, George is very efficient in points, rebounds and assists. Like James, George leads his team in both points and assists per game. He misses out on leading his team in rebounds, but that is understandable because his team is the top rebounding team in the league and his team’s center is 7-foot-2-inches.

The Pacers can win this series, although it is an uphill battle. The Pacers have enjoyed mismatches at almost every position and are a Game One buzzer-beater layup from leading the Heat 3-2 instead of the other way around. The Pacers need George and Hibbert to continue playing well and they need George Hill, Lance Stephenson and David West to play better over the course of the whole game. That, and they need to play defense the way they have all year. They will be in front of their home fans for Game Six and winning that game is the first step to taking down the defending champs.

The question is: Can the Pacers pull this off?

-Marty F. Nemec

Dwyane Wade’s spectacular dunk in Game 3 against the Pacers (NBA)

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has been hampered by injuries for most of the postseason. He has been streaky, playing either really well or really badly. Recently, he has been playing better and it looks like he may be finally getting healthy. It is safe to say you can put this dunk during a Game 3 114-96 win against the Indiana Pacers in the “really good” category. Wade blows by the entire Pacer defense and no one, including master rim protector Roy Hibbert, even gets a hand on him as he dunks the ball with one hand.

-Marty F. Nemec

A really good quote on sports in today’s market.

I really liked this quote by Eric Deggans, a TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times in Tampa, Fla. It rings true to sports journalists and it is definitely something to think about.

“It’s simple industry math: sports is the form of television most resistant to the forces dismantling big audiences elsewhere. Fans want to see it live, which reduces use of DVRs, keeping viewers from fast-forwarding through commercials. And it’s the last big meeting place for viewers of all stripes, still setting audience records at a time when TV networks are losing 10 percent of their audience every year.

Which leaves staff positions as the best place to make cuts, especially if the company can use the instability to trade experienced, higher-salaried employees for younger, less-expensive ones. And if the jobs on the line are mostly held by folks who don’t appear on camera, fans may not notice anything. At least, not at first.”

The whole story, as well as his professional bio, can be found here. I take no credit for this quote or linked story in any way.

Sports writers and viewers, what do you think about this quote? Is it true? What are you thoughts?

Marty F. Nemec

Paul George destroys Chris Andersen with a dunk (NBA)

In the middle of a series-tying 97-93 win over the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers had an especially memorable moment. At the end of the third quarter, Pacers forward Paul George got past Heat forward LeBron James and dunked the ball with authority. Unfortunately for Miami’s Chris “Birdman” Andersen, he attempted to block George too late and got posterized.

-Marty F. Nemec

LeBron James takes down Pacers on buzzer-beater layup (NBA)

Regardless of your team affiliation in the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers series, one thing was agreed on Wednesday night:

Game 1 was a brawl.

For 48 minutes of regulation, both teams delivered punches and took turns going on streaks. No matter how far ahead one team went, the other soon caught up. Miami forward LeBron James was a force all night, racking up a triple-double well before his fateful play.

The game ended and the scores were tied, throwing the exciting game into overtime. The back-and-forth trend continued and after Miami guard Dwyane Wade fouled Indiana forward Paul George on a three-pointer, George sunk all three free throws and brought his Pacers up by one point with 2.2 seconds left.

Then LeBron happened.

James scored a game-winning layup with 0 seconds on the clock to win the game.

-Marty F. Nemec

Dwyane Wade is featured in an ESPN commercial (NBA)

ESPN routinely releases fun commercials throughout the year featuring athletes for “Sportscenter.” The athlete featured in this commercial is Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade. I find ESPN’s commercials very funny and this one is no exception.

Wade’s team, the Miami Heat, is playing the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

-Marty F. Nemec