Celtics

College football will have a 4-team playoff in 2014

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College football will have a 4-team playoff in 2014

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Playoffs and tournaments long have determined champions of every college sport from baseball to bowling. The exception was major college football. That ended Tuesday. Come 2014, the BCS is dead. A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team playoff put forward by commissioners of the top football conferences. For years, the decision-makers had balked at any type of playoff because they said it would diminish the importance of the regular season. If only two teams had a chance to win a championship in the postseason, even one loss could be too many. That made for some very high stakes regular-season games. As recently as 2008, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive proposed the type of plan adopted Tuesday, and it was quickly shot down. Four years later, minds changed. The 12 university presidents stood shoulder to shoulder on a stage at a news conference in a posh hotel in the nation's capital and delivered the news. "It's a great day for college football," BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said. "As soon as the commissioners realized they could do this and protect the regular season, the light went on for everybody." The move completes a six-month process for the commissioners, who have been working on a new way to determine a major college football champion after years of griping from fans. The latest configuration is certain to make even more money for the schools than the old system -- and not satisfy everyone. "There were differences of views," said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, who headed the BCS presidential oversight committee. "I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp." Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman was the most notable holdout. He had said he preferred the status quo or a tweak of the Bowl Championship Series. Perlman said the playoff still wouldn't be his first choice, but he was not going to stand in the way of progress. "This is the package that was put forth and we will strongly support it," he said. Instead of simply matching the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game after the regular season, the way the BCS has done since 1998, the new format will create a pair of national semifinals. Many college football fans have been clamoring for a playoff for years, and the BCS has been a constant target for criticism. Lawmakers have railed against it. A political action committee was formed, dedicated to its destruction. The Justice Department looked into whether it broke antitrust laws. Even President Obama said he wanted a playoff. Now it's a reality. No. 1 will play No. 4, and No. 2 will play No. 3 on Dec. 31 andor Jan. 1. The sites of those games will rotate among the four current BCS bowls -- Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar -- and two more to be determined. One of the new sites will likely be wherever the newly formed bowl created by the SEC and Big 12 is played, Slive said. The Cotton Bowl, played at the 1.1 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has long wanted to be part of the BCS and is expected to make a strong push to be in the semifinal rotation. The winners of the semis will advance to the championship on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal. The first "Championship Monday," as it was called in the BCS release, is set for Jan. 12, 2015. The site of the title game will move around the way the Super Bowl does, with cities bidding for the right to host. The teams will be selected by a committee, similar to the way the NCAA basketball tournament field is set. The men's tournament has 68 teams, and 37 at-large bids. The football committee will have a much tougher task, trying to whittle the field down to four. This season, 125 schools will play at the highest level of college football. Among the factors the committee will consider are won-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and whether a team is a conference champion. The selection committee will also play a part in creating matchups for the games at the four sites that do not hold a semifinal in a given year. "I think it's tremendous progress," Washington State coach Mike Leach, a playoff proponent, said in a telephone interview. "Five years ago there wasn't even dialogue about a playoff. Instead of diving in the water, they dipped their toes in. I think it's' going to be ridiculously exciting and it's going to generate a bunch of money. I wish they dived in." The BCS had given automatic qualifying status to six conferences, the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12 and Big East. That allowed those leagues better access to the big, high-payout games than the other five conferences, such as the Mountain West and Conference USA. Automatically qualified status is gone and the commissioners believe the new system will create more interesting games beyond the ones that determine the national title. "What the system now is, several semifinals, championship game and some access bowls. By creating a couple of access bowls, people will be able to play high-quality opponents in big venues with big brands," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. No one has put a hard number on it yet, but this new format figures to more than double the TV revenue of the current BCS and Rose Bowl contracts. Those pay out about 155 million annually. The commissioners want to lock in this format for 12 years with a television partner. The current four-year BCS deal with ESPN runs through the 2013 season. The new format will be presented to potential TV partners in the fall, starting with ESPN. "I think we have found what we think is the right place and it stabilizes the postseason for a length of time that I think is healthy for the game," said Slive, whose members have won the last six BCS championships. There are still some details to work out -- such as who will be on the committee and what new bowls will be involved in the semifinal rotation -- but all the decision-makers are on board. Lower divisions of college football already have a playoff, but the highest level has always used bowls and polls to determine its champion. Those days are coming to an end. "We believe this new format will be good for student-athletes, for the alumni and for our institutions," Steger said. "It's a best of both worlds result. It captures the excitement of the playoff while protecting the regular season."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Hawks

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hawks in Atlanta. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

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Celtics-Hawks preview: C's defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”