A nation turns to college basketball for their fix
Posted February 6, 2013
A weary nation of sports fans looks for their next obsession after two days of debating whether or not Joe Flacco is "elite," griping over Ray Lewis' complicated legacy, Super Bowl power outages and Beyoncé. College basketball waits for them with open arms and brackets.
While the unofficial start of the season is actually next week when Duke hosts North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium, conference look-ins will begin once the fervor of National Signing Day calms down in the next 24 hours.
Fans will see Joe Lunardi on various ESPN platforms and Jerry Palm retweeted on a daily basis, each giving their updated seeding projections from now until Selection Sunday (March 17). This year appears more chaotic than others since schools seem to have an allergic reaction to being No. 1 in the polls.
Casual fans have missed a mixed bag of action since November, which doesn't sit well with Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. He thinks college basketball "is in shambles," but didn't elaborate much beyond the sport getting lost in the sports calendar.
He's not alone in lamenting college basketball's place in the pecking order.
Some of it has to do with talent drain, but the real issue facing the NCAA is time. Folks can only consume so much product during the week. Fixing the issue would require radical changes, but nobody really wants to do it out of fear of screwing up the golden goose that is March Madness.
Unlike other sports, college basketball employs a soft launch strategy during the busiest months of football. Even if schools were to shift the start of the season to late December, it would run into the wall of noise created by the NFL playoffs and whatever they end up calling the BCS in a couple of years. They'll still find themselves taking a backseat until early February. And then what happens?Will March be replaced with "May-hem?" That's not going to fly.
There's also an inventory problem. Thirty or so games with minimal impact early in the season create scenarios where losses to Florida Gulf Coast seem like they never happened to a team in the top ten. Ultimately, the regular season boils down to NCAA Tournament positioning, which is a byproduct of 68 teams in the field.
So rather than a national product, college basketball is relegated to heavier regional coverage.
There's nothing wrong with that status, especially in traditionally strong basketball areas such as the Triangle. It's really easy to do four hours of radio and fill up digital column space on the day-to-day of North Carolina, Duke and NC State.
But that's not good enough for ADs and presidents looking to squeeze as much money out of the sport as they can. That kind of thinking will eventually bring about a field of 128 teams, which nobody truly wants.