Last week, FanHouse's Ray Holloman wondered why college basketball just crawls into its season every year. Unlike every other major sport, the NCAA doesn't really have any grand opening for their hoops season.
ESPN is attempting to create some sort of opening day by bringing a marathon of hoops action today. The network will air 23 straight hours of college basketball programming starting with UMass at Memphis at midnight ET. That's the first of nine games ESPN is planning to show today. Highlighting the lineup is the capper: Kentucky at North Carolina.
The schedule (all times Eastern):
12:00 a.m. - UMass at Memphis
2:00 a.m. - Fresno State at St. Mary's
4:00 a.m. - Idaho State at Hawaii
10:00 a.m. - Penn at Drexel
12:00 p.m. - Iowa at Kansas (women)
2:00 p.m. - Liberty at UNC-Asheville
4:00 p.m. - Centenary at Baylor
6:00 p.m. - Richmond at Syracuse
9:00 p.m. - Kentucky at North Carolina
It takes the idea of the greatest days of college basketball ... the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament ... and try to duplicate it at the beginning of the season. There is nothing better than sitting down at noon on the opening of the Tournament and watching non-stop college basketball until about 1:00 a.m.
I like the idea but I'm not crazy with the execution. I love having a midnight game to start off the festivities and a couple of games after that in the wee hours. I'm a night owl and love being able to see live events. Including Hawaii at home is brilliant and baiting somebody to play a game at 10:00 a.m. is cool.
However, ESPN needs to get some better games. Sure, North Carolina, Memphis, Syracuse and Kentucky are name schools but none of the games are really "must see" matchups. The UNC-Kentucky game does have nice story-lines and pits two schools with massive followings, but it should be a dud of a contest.
This is college basketball where heavyweight teams will play other heavyweights if it means they will be on national television and they can gain some RPI points for it. Put some non-conference rivalries on the slate (Memphis-Tennessee, anyone?) or games involving regional powers (I'd like to see Florida vs Miami-FL).
Also, extend it past midnight again. I'm sure you can find somebody to play an 11:00 p.m. game that follows UNC-UK. You could probably find some west coast schools to play a game at 1:00 a.m. ET, too.
I'm optimistic that this event will catch on and start getting those kinds of matchups off the bat.