FALCON POINTS

IF the NBA and NHL come back, here is a proposal for a World Cup-style tourney to determine the champs

Getty Images

Let's face it; we probably aren't getting sports back any time soon. Baseball has no shortage of plans, including this intriguing one, and football still has some time. The NBA and NHL might simply just be screwed at this stage.

But there might be a way to at least crown a champion in each league by doing something somewhat radical. Why not a World Cup/Olympic style single elimination tournament in each? If the leagues worked together, the elimination rounds could be on separate days, so fans would have almost two full weeks of sports. Obviously there would be no fans, but the TV numbers would be huge. The single elimination (after a round robin first round) would make every game meaningful. It would appeal to the NBA's desire to have some kind of in-season tournament, only this time it would be there to determine a champion. For the NHL, it would create in some interest in a sport that is desperate for it.

HOW IT WOULD WORK

First, this is purely speculation. I realize there is almost no way this could work. but for the sake of having a little fun, In our format, there would be four, five-team World Cup style "pods." You would start with the 16 teams currently in the playoffs and add the next two in each conference to get to 20. Each "pod" would feature a four-game round robin, with seedings for the elimination rounds based on the results.

From there, you play a 16-team, single elimination tournament. Each round would have a day off in between, where the other league would play its games.

Each round of games would take place in one venue.

HOW THE NBA WOULD LOOK

You could not really match pods by current seedings, because you would want things as geographically close as possible, so that the first round matchups could be played in one place. Based on the standings when the season ended, your pods would look something like this:

WEST A (Staples Center)

Lakers

Clippers

Utah

Portland

Denver

WEST B (American Airlines Center, Dallas)

Oklahoma City

Houston

Dallas

Memphis

New Orleans (wins tiebreaker over Sacramento based on head to head)

One team in each pod would be eliminated. The second round single elimination would feature:

WA1 vs. WB4

WA2 vs. WB 3

WB2 vs. WA3

WB1 vs. WA4

Ideally, all the remaining rounds would be at one venue, likely Staples Center, although California law might require Dallas to be the site. It really doesn't matter where, as long as they are all in the same place.

You would play down to one team, which would face the East champ, which would go through the same process. Here is how the East would look:

EAST A (TD Garden, Boston)

Toronto

Boston

Philadelphia

Brooklyn

Washington

EAST B (Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee)

Milwaukee

Indiana

Miami

Orlando

Charlotte

The knockout round would be as follows, ideally one spot, perhaps Madison Square Garden? Again, no fans, so it really doesn't matter:

EA1 vs. EB4

EA2 vs. EB 3

EB2 vs. EA3

EB1 vs. EA4

Is it fair that some of these pods feature more good teams than others? Not really, but keep in mind everyone advances except for one team, and the first round is for seeding. Obviously the West A and East A groups are tougher, but that happens in the World Cup all the time. This way, you keep the conference model, and your one-game championship features the West champ vs. the East champ.

HOW THE NHL WOULD LOOK

Keep in mind, exact same format, sticking primarily to the divisions:

EAST A (BB&T Center, Florida) (Insert your, Panthers are the perfect host for no fans because joke here)

Boston

Tampa

Toronto

Florida

Carolina

EAST B (Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia)

Washington

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

Columbus

NY Islanders

Knockout round:

EA1 vs. EB4

EA2 vs. EB 3

EB2 vs. EA3

EB1 vs. EA4

WEST A (Pepsi Center, Colorado)

St. Louis

Colorado

Dallas

Winnipeg

Nashville

WEST B (T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas_

Las Vegas

Edmonton

Calgary

Vancouver

Arizona

Knockout round:

WA1 vs. WB4

WA2 vs. WB 3

WB2 vs. WA3

WB1 vs. WA4

In both leagues, the 1-4 winners face the 2-3 winners, then the semifinals, then the finals. Vegas would be the perfect host stadium.

One you are into the elimination rounds, imagine the intensity of those games. Sure, you could ride a hot goalie all the way to a championship. But that has happened in the Olympics as well. Is it perfect? No. Is anything these days? But if it makes sense from a health perspective, it might be a nice way to crown a 2020 champ NCAA tourney/World Cup style, give us a little taste of sports and not mess up scheduling for the 2021 season. Plus, from a selfish standpoint, it gives us something to watch (and bet on). Practice time would not be a huge issue, because you use a week to get in shape and then the round robin is also used somewhat as practice.

Would the champions be comparable to winners of four seven-game series? No, and in a perfect world, that's what we would get. But if you haven't noticed, this is pretty far from a perfect world.

Anyway, it will never happen, but it is always fun to speculate. Besides, what else is there to do right now?

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome