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In the FCS Huddle: Every (home) game counts

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Now that you have likely shredded your bracket for March Madness, you can make a strong case that the eventual champion will be the best team in the tournament rather than the best team of the college basketball season.

We're not just picking on Butler and VCU, we also mean the two national semifinalists with the more storied histories - Kentucky and Connecticut - were not close to being the nation's best team during the regular season.

But they've earned their place in Houston this weekend and that's all that matters in the tournament.

It's safe to say, though, the results - and your bracket - would look a lot different if the games were played on home courts, and not neutral sites, as the tournament leads to the Final Four.

The tournament can support neutral sites, so this isn't to say the NCAA has its format wrong because other than the Super Bowl March Madness is generally regarded as the highlight of the annual sports calendar. But most of us love Cinderella during the first weekend of the tournament, then prefer the season's best teams - basically the top-seeded teams - make it out of the second weekend to create colossal showdowns at the Final Four.

You get that scenario late in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Not only is it the Division I level that stages a playoff to determine a champion, but it rewards the regular season in a way that Division I college basketball doesn't do.

Sure, both sports use the regular season to create its postseason field, but home-field advantage is such a big difference.

If you go back through the list of FCS championship matchups, you will see a lot of power-conference teams, not upstarts from smaller conferences.
Last season's FCS finalists - first-time champion Eastern Washington and Delaware - played three straight home games en route to meeting in the championship game in neutral Frisco, Texas - albeit the result of a few upsets along the way (Delaware was the No. 3 seed; EWU was No. 5)

It was the same way the year before for national champion Villanova and runner-up Montana. Each stayed at home until they met in the title game.

In fact, if you go back through the list of FCS championship matchups, you will see a lot of power-conference teams, not upstarts from smaller conferences.

They say every game counts in the college football season. In the postseason, every home game should count even more.

Road teams were an outstanding 9-9 in the FCS playoffs last season, so you can't say winning is a slam dunk for the home teams.

But the home teams, especially the five who are seeded for the 20-team playoffs, earned a right in the regular season to have some form of an advantage in the playoffs. They just have to make it stand up.

In recent years, it's felt more and more like there are no big games during college basketball's regular season. Some believe that only March Madness seems to matter today.

You can't say that about the FCS playoffs.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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