national champs baby
Mailbag: Equilibrium States, Hockey Formatting, The Distant Future
right via flickr user bre pettis
You've often mentioned how a single elimination hockey tournament is a poor indicator of who the best team is, due to the randomness that exists in hockey. There is one sport where the randomness of the winner is considerably higher - baseball. And college baseball deals with this by making the tournament, and the college world series, double elimination tournament up until the championship.
Do you think a double elimination tournament could work for NCAA hockey, or if not for the frozen four, at least for the regionals? Each regional would still fit nicely into a weekend, rather than needing to spread out over two weeks if it were a 3 game series at each round. As hockey is poised for a potentially cataclysmic change tomorrow, the time for changing the tournament would be now as well.
Double elimination doesn't work for hockey because it's just too many games. A first-round loser could hypothetically play five games if they reach the final and win the first game, and how are you going to fit that into three days? Even if you decide the final is one and done (presumably playing this exhausted team is advantage enough) you've still got a situation where someone's playing twice in a day. That's not feasible.
The thing that makes the most sense is to go back to the old best two-of-three series. Have two rounds of those and have a Frozen Four. Downsides: it takes a week longer and some schools don't control their rinks, making reservations awkward. Upside: massively more revenue and it looks like people care about college hockey.
Something like this may be coming. As mentioned this morning, the NCAA has not announced regional sites past next year. Last May this was apparently the hot idea:
Under the most popular proposal, the tournament would stay as a 16-team field, but the first round would be a best-of-three series played at the venue of the higher seed.
The eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals would play at one of two super regional sites. The quarterfinals would be one-game shots with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line. The Frozen Four would not change.
That manages to be only slightly better than the current system since you know you're going to this random "super regional" site to watch your team play once. There seems to be no reason not to play another campus series other than a desire to pretend you're a bigger deal than your are.
If hockey is truly insistent on having regionals, let's format them like the first round of the World Cup or Olympic hockey: everyone plays each other and the top two teams move on. That would force teams to play three straight days but without overtime everyone's on a level playing field. That should help attendance since you know you'll get to see your team play three times.
The biggest issue with that format is scheduling the last day. In the World Cup the last group games are simultaneous because there are situations in which teams can assure themselves advancement by walking around for 90 minutes and tying. You couldn't do that at a regional. I think if you're flexible with the final day's schedule you could avoid that by making the teams who are in that advantageous position play first, though.
More money, more reason to travel, and less randomness—it's better than the current setup. The tournament could start out with groups, have a campus weekend, and then have a Frozen Four.
If NCAA determines that OSU must vacate last year football wins, does that mean RichRod went 1-2 vs. OSU?
No. A vacated game never happened—unless you lost, I guess—so officially he'd be 0-2.
After reading your thoughtful post about Webber, I couldn't help but think about why, despite everything, I always loved the guy. Just to try to explain what it was like: The Fab 5 era has many of the elements of the last few years of Michigan football, except they were magnified. First, there was the culture clash. Fisher's coaching style, the new players, all of it received a very similar reception, but unlike RR he had the '89 national championship for protection. And of course the culture clash was magnified because it was not only a matter of a culture clash within the university but on a national level. Think of it as the culture clash times five.
Then there was the electrifying style of play. Every moment of every game at Crisler, you were just sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for something amazing to happen. Not just dunks, although people often forget just how incredible not only Webber but Jimmy's ups were. But an unreal block, an impossible pass, a quick as lightening steal. The only thing I can really compare it to in my life of watching sports was watching Denard last year. You were just sitting there with visceral sense of anticipation, knowing you just might witness something amazing. But now imagine if Denard and Rich Rod had taken us to a national championship game -- or two in a row -- and I think that will give you some sense of how it felt to be a student at Michigan in that era and why we simply can't not love those guys. We all knew those players personalities, their faces, their styles of play. It was something close to watching five Denards.
There was obviously a culture clash with Rodriguez's program as a whole but Denard isn't a part of that because Denard is the nicest kid in the history of the universe. I've been going to basketball and hockey games for years and when other athletes show up, they do so in a big group, come late, and leave early. This extends even to nonentities like the tennis team. They signed some autographs at Yost earlier this season and then watched a portion of the second period in seats directly behind mine, then took off.
Denard went to the DEATH TO BACKBOARDS Wisconsin game. He wasn't there with teammates (unless Drew Dileo was there—everyone around him was an average-sized white guy), stayed for the whole thing, and when handed a random maize T-shirt he put it over his futuristic Annie Lennox jacket. You can throw that on the pile of evidence that contains every press conference he's ever attended and every touchdown he's ever kneeled after.
But the larger point is good. Michigan swung away from its baseline attitude in the aftermath of the '89 championship because it won a lot for a brief period of time, and then when it won less and got the program in trouble they reacted by hiring Tommy Amaker and John Beilein. Even more telling was only after Amaker left for Harvard that people started complaining about his recruiting practices.
A lot of people have pointed at that reaction as the Fab Five's doing, but it's really just Michigan returning to its equilibrium state after being knocked out of it briefly. The same thing happened with Rodriguez except it didn't take nearly as long because there weren't any of those win things. At some point in the future Michigan will have a coach with a different idea of what football looks like*, and he'll be tolerated as long as he wins, and then eventually he won't win and Michigan will return to its equilibrium state.
*[Possibly a distant, Humans Are Dead future, granted.]