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

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

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

What the Knicks need to do to beat the Pacers, by the numbers (NBA)(POLL included)

The Knicks are on the edge of elimination and while it is tough to predict the winner of a game, trends and statistics can be used to guess. Obviously there are things on the Pacers’ side that affect the game like George Hill’s absence among other things. I will be focusing on the Knicks.

The Knicks have started Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler, and Raymond Felton in every game during the series against the Pacers and alternated the fifth starter. I have calculated the points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and shot attempts for all four starters.

Here are some things that need to happen if the Knicks are going to win.

Can New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony lead his team over the Pacers despite being down 3-2 in the series. (Photo by: Danny Wild/ USA TODAY Sports)

Can New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony lead his team over the Pacers despite being down 3-2 in the series? (Photo by: Danny Wild/ USA TODAY Sports)

Carmelo Anthony needs to shoot more.

In the Knicks’ wins, Carmelo Anthony shot 27 attempts per game, but in the losses, Anthony shot 22.3 attempts per game. His field goal efficiency also drops from 47 percent in the wins to 38 percent in the losses. This could be attributed to the Pacers playing better defense in the wins, of course, but it also could point to Melo needing to get “warmed up,” as many players do. In those four shots that Anthony didn’t take, the Knicks are losing a maximum of 12 points and that’s without even counting possible free throws from fouls. The Knicks are simply better when Melo shoots more.

Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton just have to keep doing what they do.

Strangely enough, Tyson Chandler has had worse numbers in the Knicks’ wins. He averaged 3.3 more points and almost 2 more blocks in the losses. The rest of his stats were almost identical in both the wins and losses. Raymond Felton had slight drops in rebounds per game and field goal percentage between the wins and losses. Again, the rest of the stats were nearly identical in both wins and losses. As long as Chandler and Felton stay consistent with how they have been playing over the series, they won’t negatively impact their team.

Iman Shumpert might be the biggest factor in the Knicks’ losses

In the losses, Iman Shumpert’s stats dropped by almost 4 points, a rebound and an assist. Also, despite shooting the same amount of attempts in both wins and losses, his field goal accuracy dropped from 42 percent to 22 percent. Shumpert’s play is one of the biggest factors in the Knicks’ losses and he will have to play at a higher level.

Here are the rest of the stats that I calculated:

Name, Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks, FG%, Shot Attempts

Averages in wins
Carmelo Anthony 30 7.5 1.5 1.5 0 .47 27
Iman Shumpert 10 6 2 .5 0 .42 10.5
Tyson Chandler 5 6 .5 .5 1 .50 4.5
Raymond Felton 13 3.5 3.5 2 0 49.5 11.5

Averages in losses
Carmelo Anthony 24 8.3 1 0.7 0.3 .38 22.3
Iman Shumpert 6.3 5.3 1.3 0.3 0 .22 9
Tyson Chandler 8.3 6 0 0.7 2.7 .73 5
Raymond Felton 12.7 2.3 3.7 1.7 0.7 41.3 12

1. Pacers 102, Knicks 95
Carmelo Anthony 27 11 1 1 0 .36 28
Iman Shumpert 11 4 1 0 0 .36 11
Tyson Chandler 4 3 0 1 2 1.00 2
Raymond Felton 18 2 3 0 0 .67 12

2. Knicks 105, Pacers 79
Carmelo Anthony 32 9 3 2 0 .50 26
Iman Shumpert 15 6 3 1 0 .64 11
Tyson Chandler 8 4 1 0 0 .80 5
Raymond Felton 14 2 3 1 0 .56 9

3. Pacers 82, Knicks 71
Carmelo Anthony 21 5 1 0 0 .38 16
Iman Shumpert 8 10 2 1 0 .30 10
Tyson Chandler 9 5 0 0 3 .75 4
Raymond Felton 6 3 2 2 0 .13 8

4. Pacers 93, Knicks 82
Carmelo Anthony 24 9 1 1 1 .39 23
Iman Shumpert 0 2 1 0 0 .0 6
Tyson Chandler 12 10 0 1 3 .44 9
Raymond Felton 14 2 6 3 2 .44 16

5. Knicks 85, Pacers 75
Carmelo Anthony 28 6 0 1 0 .43 28
Iman Shumpert 5 6 1 0 0 .20 10
Tyson Chandler 2 8 0 1 2 .25 4
Raymond Felton 12 5 4 3 0 .43 14

-Marty F. Nemec

Tuesday’s Player of the Day- 4/30/2013 (NBA)

Denver’s back was against the wall and it looked like it was going to be eliminated by Stephen Curry and the red-hot Golden State Warriors. This player stepped up to make that not happen.

Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

25 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block

Andre Iguodala was a force to be reckoned with as he helped the Denver Nuggets fight off elimination in a 107-100 win over the Golden State Warriors. (Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Andre Iguodala was a force to be reckoned with as he helped the Denver Nuggets fight off elimination in a 107-100 win over the Golden State Warriors. (Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Maybe the stat line alone doesn’t blow you away (it should), but there was more to the eye when it came to Nuggets forward Andre Iguodala’s performance in the 107-100 Game 5 win. Iguodala compiled this near triple-double while only turning the ball over twice. Better yet, the game was decided by seven points, but the Nuggets outscored the Warriors by 17 points when he was on the floor. He also shot 59 percent from the floor, 64 percent from within the arc (7-of-11). I hope you follow me now. The Nuggets will need more of this from Iguodala, mixed in with great efforts from Kenneth Faried and others on the team, to win the next two games in a row and stave off elimination.

-Marty F. Nemec

Sunday’s Player of the Day- 4/28/2013 (NBA)

The best players step up at the most important times for their teams. The Miami Heat had never swept a playoff opponent in the “Big Three Era,” and this player made sure that would change against the Milwaukee Bucks, even though superstar Dwyane Wade was injured.

LeBron James, Miami Heat

30 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 1 blocks

LeBron James was unstoppable in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James was unstoppable in the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks. (Photo by: Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports)

LeBron James has been the picture of efficiency this season and that was no different in a 88-77 Game 4 win against the Bucks. James shot 13 of 20 and the Heat were +16 with him on the court. With Wade and his 21.2 points per game on the bench, the team needed more. James was happy to deliver and nearly tallied a triple-double, while helping the Heat defense hold the Bucks to their lowest point total they’ve scored in all 86 games they have played in this year. Golden State’s Stephen Curry and New York’s Carmelo Anthony deserve big nods for their individual performances as well.

-Marty F. Nemec

Saturday’s Player of the Day- 4/27/2013 (NBA)

When a superstar like Russell Westbrook goes down to injury, other people on the team have to step up. Being the leading scorer and face of the franchise, it was obvious there was one man that to step up more than any other:

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

41 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 ast

Kevin Durant has truly stepped up in the absence of Russell Westbrook for the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Photo by: Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

Kevin Durant has truly stepped up in the absence of Russell Westbrook for the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Photo by: Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

Kevin Durant was a workhorse for the Thunder, playing for 47 minutes, one shy of the total minutes in an NBA game. He launched 30 shot attempts, more than he has in any game for the entire postseason, but also scored 41 points, a tied career-high for playoff scoring. His efforts caused the Thunder to beat the Rockets by three points, one game after another three-point victory. This series is bound to stay close and the Thunder will need another monster effort from Durant to close it out.

-Marty F. Nemec

Friday’s Player of the Day- 4/26/2013 (NBA)

With Denver losing control of the series against Golden State, the Nuggets needed the win. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to win, but this player had an amazing game in a losing effort.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

35 points, 3 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals

Ty Lawson has been one of the biggest contributors in Denver's fast-paced offense. (Photo by: Doug Pensinger, Getty Images)

Ty Lawson has been one of the biggest contributors in Denver’s fast-paced offense. (Photo by: Doug Pensinger, Getty Images)

While the Nuggets fell in a heartbreaking 110-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Denver point guard Ty Lawson was unstoppable. Playing for 37 minutes, Lawson almost averaged a point per minute. He also shot 50 percent from the field and sunk all 12 free throws. It is unfortunate that Andre Iguodala had a relatively mediocre game and Andre Miller shot 2 of 13 from the field. With a performance like that, a team usually wins, but maybe the rest of the Nuggets can feed off of Lawson’s energy.

-Marty F. Nemec