In an eight-team tournament, if you win your first game you are in the semi-finals. Only the top two teams advance, so ordinarily finishing third won't even be a moral victory. To the extent anyone cares, aren't you in the top four because you made it to the "semi-finals?"
No. Because by the time you have lost your semi-final game, the four teams that lost on the first day have played their "loser-out" games. The winners of those two games now have 1 and 1 records, just like yours. Shouldn't you be considered to have finished higher because you won on the first day and those two teams lost on the first day?
No. Apparently they don't have enough confidence in the seeding/pairing process to do it that way. None of those teams will have played you yet in the tournament.
So now, after losing in the semis on the evening of the second day, you start the long, exhausting slog through the "loser-out" bracket on day three. The point of the loser-out bracket is to identify the tentative "third" place team.
Why do they care about who finishes "third?" Because there is one tiny, slender window of opportunity for the "third" place team. If the team you lost to in the semi-final wins the championship game, the loser of that game necessarily came out of the other half of the bracket, meaning you won't have played them yet in the tournament. By the same logic that sends you on the exhausting slog through the loser-out bracket on day three because you haven't played those other one-loss teams yet, nobody really knows if that "second" place team that hasn't played you in the tournament yet is really better than you are.
To answer that question, the "third" place team that comes out of the loser-out bracket on day three can "challenge" the "second" place team that lost the championship game on the evening of day three, if the "second" and "third" place teams haven't yet played in the tournament.
To even get to where you can challenge, you have to play and win two full-duration basketball games within an 8-hour window on the third day of the tournament. Then you have to hope the team that beat you in semis wins it all, so you can take a shot at the "second" place team. If the team that beat you in semis loses the championship game, you are done because the second-place team has already defeated you in the tournament and they really did finish "second." But if the championship game ends in a way that allows you to challenge, then, less than 24 hours after you have played and won not just one but two full-length loser-out games within an 8-hour period the day before, you have to play and beat the "second" place team. While winning those three games in 30 hours on tired legs isn't statistically impossible, that is a hell of a lot of things that have to fall into place in exactly the right way.
Now factor in that the "second" place team you have to beat in the challenge game is your arch, arch, archest rival, a program with a long and proud tradition of success on the basketball court. They figured they were going to win the championship game, they're pissed about losing it, and now they're coming into the challenge game with you mad and with a lot they think they have to prove to themselves and everyone else.
Under this setup, if you manage to win those two loser-out games on the third day and then beat your most intense rival, all within a 30-hour period, you have definitely earned your trip to the next level. If I was an opposing coach I would be very concerned about having to play these guys right now.
No comments posted.