Hoops is back ... with a whimper
So did you know Monday is Opening Day in college basketball?
Okay, you probably did, because you are a bona fide hoophead. But what about the guy in the cubicle next to you, the one who right now is secretly checking on his NFL fantasy team? Or what about the fella who sat across from you on the subway this morning reading the paper as it was meant to be read, sports, and then everything else? And your brother-in-law, who likes basketball but mostly follows the NBA? Does he know today is the big day?
Chances are, they don't. That's largely because college basketball has the unfortunate task of beginning its season at a time when the World Series has just ended and all the other major sports are well underway. But the obscurity exists also because the people who have the most influence over the sport have neglected to devise an Opening Day that breaks through all the clutter. It's a sad commentary that the start of practice, Midnight Madness, attracts so much more attention than the commencement of actual games.
The idea to create an Opening Day was supposed to be part of the mission undertaken by the College Basketball Partnership that was created in 2004 at the behest of
The group undertook a flurry of activity in its first two years, but it soon petered out and hasn't met since 2006. Some of the early ideas have come to pass, most notably the academic reforms that Brand made the heart of his tenure. The CBP also birthed the joint initiative between the NCAA and NBA, recently re-branded iHoops, to address the ills that plague grassroots basketball. The Opening Day idea, which has been heavily promoted over the years by former Big East commissioner
Even if the NCAA could create an Opening Day, it would have to decide the best way to execute it. They could adopt the NFL and college football tactics of beginning with a Big Bang, where two of the most prominent programs face off in the only game of the night. Or, they could take the more scattershot baseball-style approach in which hundreds of games are played on the same evening.
Then there's the question of deciding what day this should all take place. With the weekends being consumed by college and pro football, it seems the most logical time would be Friday night, when the only competition would come from high school football. In the end, however, it doesn't matter what day or night is chosen and who plays so long as the NCAA and its media partners pursue the notion with gusto.
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anybody of influence really concentrating on making this happen at the moment, but Shaheen hopes it will become a priority. "I don't know that there's a lot of momentum, but there's a consensus that we need to explore the best ways to try and unify around an opening day or opening weekend in a way that paints a clearer picture for college basketball," he said. "There's no easy answer, but it's definitely something we have to take on."
Let's hope they do. I'm as excited as anyone that the new season is finally getting underway. I just wish it started with a bang instead of a whimper.
• I've written/tweeted that Seton Hall was my number one sleeper team this season. But if I confined myself to west of the Mississippi River, I'd go with USC. This is partly a reflection on the weakness of the Pac-10, but despite all the turmoil that has taken place since
• Keeping us out west, I don't know that there's a team in America that has had a more disastrous preseason than UCLA. The latest blow came Sunday, when the school announced freshman forward
• I hate to say it because he's such a great guy, but I don't know of anyone who thinks
• Regarding my blog entry on the NCAA's recruiting reforms package, some questions have arisen over the fact that the prohibition against hiring a player's AAU coach/father/mentor is limited to non-staff positions like director of basketball operations or video coordinator. Why would the NCAA do this? Won't coaches now get around the new rules by simply hiring these middlemen as fulltime assistants?
The answer is that in the past, coaches have mostly stashed their package hires in those lower-rung positions. Thus, if the NCAA tried to include fulltime assistants in the new rule, it would be more vulnerable to a legal challenge because there is no established history there. But if head coaches start using the fulltime assistant positions for their package hires, then the NCAA would be in a stronger legal position to pass a rule against doing that as well. So my advice for coaches is simple: Don't go there. The days of hiring a guy to get a guy are hopefully over.
• I've been talking to a few NBA scouts lately, and I can tell you that if at the end of the season
• Did you catch the sharp elbow
• Last year was clearly a down year for mid-majors, but now the middies are back up. Besides the usual suspects like Butler, Siena and Gonzaga, nearly a dozen other mid-majors are beginning the season with legitimate hopes of reaching the tournament's second weekend. They include Northern Iowa, which is leading a resurgence in the Missouri Valley Conference, as well as Dayton, Tulsa, BYU, VCU and Western Kentucky. Let's hope the selection committee goes out of its way to extend bids to these guys, because we all know how difficult it is for them to put together quality nonconference schedules.
• As bad as the last month has been for Minnesota coach
• The season hasn't even begun and
• Georgia Tech is beginning the season with high expectations. The Jackets are ranked 20th in the coaches' poll and 22nd in the AP poll. So it has to be a concern that Georgia Tech needed to go to overtime to beat Indiana (Pa.) in an exhibition game Sunday night. Freshman
• There's plenty of blame to go around in the
• I wonder if Arizona fans realize just how close they were to getting
• I find the annual debate over which is the best conference to be both tiresome and irresistible. (Story of my life.) So for now I'll say that this season the designation will be deciced by the teams in the middle tiers of these leagues. That's why I'm giving an advantage at the start to the Big East. Seton Hall, St. John's, Cincinnati and Rutgers are going to be better than they have been in years (not saying much I realize), and even in down seasons Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Syracuse will at least be bubble-worthy. I also think the middle of the Big 12 is stronger than people realize. Consider that Baylor was picked to finish ninth in the preseason. Thus, my order of the BCS leagues going into the season (and always subject to change) stands as follows: Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac-10.