Sunday December 11th, 2011

Proponents of college football's current system harp repeatedly that having a postseason playoff would devalue the regular season. They have a point. Really, how can you get excited about games that don't have do-or-die consequences (*cough* brand message trumping reality *cough*)? Those 27 million people who pay to watch college basketball in person every year before conference and postseason tournaments? Idiots, clearly.

Indeed, if college basketball had a tournament, there's no chance anything like what happened on Saturday would resonate:

Local rivalry game ends in vicious brawl. There was nothing to see in the always-heated Crosstown Shootout between Xavier and Cincinnati. Except for the pregame Twitter barbs, face-to-face smacktalk during the final seconds of a 23-point Xavier beatdown, a two-handed shove, a ball being fired into the face of an opponent, several punches/skirmishes, a cheap shot/foot stomp combo on a 7-footer that would have made Vince McMahon blush, and post-brawl comments from the winning team's star (and pre-melee instigator) that referenced gangsters and body bags. Good thing most of these guys will go pro in something other than public relations.

No. 1 goes down at the buzzer. Kentucky went into the uber-frenzied atmosphere of Assembly Hall and was met head-on by a throaty fan base thirsting for the return of its program to its rightful historic levels. The 'Cats rallied from double digits down in their first hostile road test, but were dramatically KO'd by a Christian Watford buzzer-beating 3-pointer after seemingly not being able to give a foul in the final seconds. Oh yeah, a preseason All-America pouted his way through the game and was benched down the stretch and Tom Crean unleashed a now-trademarked "shocked snarl of delight" after Watford's shot hit net. Just a ho-hum evening in Bloomington (which we assume is still standing at this point).

No. 2 also goes down (with a sizable asterisk). No Jared Sullinger? No shame then in Ohio State's effort that fell short in Lawrence, Kan. As fans, though, we were denied a Thomas Robinson-Sullinger showdown, instead getting to watch William Buford take 23 shots. Kansas was also denied, to a certain extent, the chance for a massive home win for the ol' postseason resume, although the committee usually doesn't discount wins over short-handed opponents nearly as much as losses without key players. This is a rare case where a Top 25 clash isn't zero sum. Of course, it also could mean that Syracuse ascends to No. 1 in the new polls on Monday, which could make for another Fine mess as the media glare intensifies on and off the court.

The growing sinkhole that's the Pac-12. Washington looked scattered for most of a loss to Duke at Madison Square Garden, one that dropped the conference to a thoroughly awful 2-18 against the current (early, but still) RPI Top 50. The league's two Top 50 wins? Denver and Colorado State. Only Stanford is currently in the top 50 itself and the league sits at 10th in conference RPI. Reminder: There are only six BCS football leagues. Can you smell the one-bid league brewing should the league champ also take the auto-bid? Elsewhere, USC lost to New Mexico, UCLA finally dismissed Reeves Nelson and barely held off a mid-table Ivy team, and Utah continues its march toward BCS ignominy with a 19-point home drubbing by archrival BYU. At least Arizona beat Clemson. Yay.

Wait, what's that you say? College hoops does have a national championship tournament? Yet all of these storylines were blowing up Twitter and traditional media channels today? Come on. The next thing you'll claim is that we don't have to wait until next Saturday for more of this kind of excitement.

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