Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Still pining for a real college basketball opening day

November 13, 2015 Columns 1 Comment

This could easily become a yearly plea.

We played this song last year, and we’ll do it again.

There has been slight improvement in recent years with at least a single starting date, but the truth remains: even many of the more avid (if not completely hard core) fans don’t know when the college basketball season starts, and will be surprised when they start seeing games showing up on TV and scores like “Shenandoah 58 Bucknell 85” running on the bottom of their screen.

Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis recently suggested Veteran’s Day as a yearly opening date for college hoops. We appreciate his continued thoughtfulness, and while not always agreeing with his ideas (including this one), it’s great to have someone like Davis who is always looking for ways to improve the sport, without losing track of what is already great about it.

We still would counter that Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to start the season, just as it was for many years before gradually slipping away in the early 1990s.

There is nothing magical about beginning the season in the middle of November. College football-even at the small-college levels-is still in season. The NFL is loading up for its stretch run. The NBA just started and hasn’t settled into its slog stage just yet. Shoot, even NASCAR is still going. There is just too much to filter through for the average fan.

By starting the day after Thanksgiving, the majority of college football season has passed. Even if there are a few conference championship games or conferences trying to stretch the gridiron season a little longer to minimize time between championships and bowl games, when it comes to college sports, if the calendar is near December, it’s time to start turning eyes indoors.

Thanksgiving weekend allows a natural opportunity for holiday events to open the season. The Great Alaska Shootout and Maui Classic (now Invitational) became holiday traditions on that weekend. There’s room for a few others too, as well as those four-team “classics” popular for many years.

If some really want to see the sport do a slow drip into the season with a single event, the preseason NIT in its original form in the 1980s and 1990s was perfect.

Let’s face it: for the average fan, tournaments are what make college basketball. It’s not star players-not anymore, anyway, in our one-and-done or two-and-out era. It’s not glitzy teams-even the pull of Duke or Kentucky only goes so far on a national basis.

A stand-alone tournament with 16 teams from conferences around the country was in the past and would still be about the nearest thing one could produce to an NCAA Tournament to start the season. There’s no reason why the preseason NIT can’t be the opening event again.

Include top teams as well as teams from 16 different conferences. End it the day after Thanksgiving in Madison Square Garden when everyone else is beginning. The first round games can look something like this:

Iona at Villanova
Wofford at Duke
Evansville at Indiana
Northern Arizona at Arizona
South Dakota State at Iowa State
UC Irvine at San Diego State
Georgia State at LSU
William & Mary at UAB

Do fans know every one of these teams? No, but if you choose them well, they’ll recognize most of them from recent March brackets of their own.

Are these slightly riskier games for the home teams than a guarantee game? Sure.

Do they generate more interest for fans? Absolutely. And if the top teams advance as they would be expected to, they still provide a natural lead into the start of the season for everyone else. If there’s an upset or two in there, then that’s just fine. That’s college basketball.

For the sake of the sport as a whole, the focus needs to be on quality games to start the year, not occasionally highlighting a single team or player. This year’s opening night TV lineup includes Siena at Duke and McNeese State at LSU.

Both games will showcase the sport-briefly. Let’s be real-unless one is a fan of those four teams, there is about a 3% chance that they’re going to watch those games from start-to-finish.

Of course, an event like this may hurt some of the in-season exempted tournaments. So be it. There are more than enough of them already. The sport won’t be hurt one bit if it loses a few of these newer events that have drawn puny crowds in warm weather locations.

As for not being enough time to play an entire schedule; nonsense. It may require a few more two-day weekend tourneys. Again, nothing wrong with that. Outside of conference play, this sport is at its best in tournament form.

If the sport is really serious about growth, this is something it needs to take on. A few schools or a few third-party organizers may have to make a few sacrifices. That’s OK. There is not just potential for college basketball to do better with its opening-there is a proven blueprint.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Paul Borden says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. This is far too early for bkb season to start.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – May 30, 2018

May 30, 2018 by

The NBA Draft and its deadline to withdraw to return to school leads the way in our latest podcast. We also look at one conference’s new scheduling plans, a number of quick hitters, and pay tribute to a fallen conference leader.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we spend a lot of time looking at what the Commission on College Basketball came up with, as their report was just produced. We also look at the NBA Draft and transfers, which have many rosters potentially in flux for next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 by

In our first podcast in the postseason, we look back one more time on the NCAA Tournament, which was just what we needed at this time. We also look at the NIT, CBI and CIT, as well as important transactions with players leaving early for the NBA Draft and coaching changes.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 by

The 2018 national championship is in the books, and with it another season of college basketball. We break down the national championship game and some of its implications to wrap up the season.

College Basketball Tonight – April 1, 2018

April 2, 2018 by

Welcome to our Final Four edition of College Basketball Tonight. In this edition, we look ahead to Monday’s national championship game, and bring on two guests – long-time Villanova radio play-by-play broadcaster Ryan Fannon and Radford head coach Mike Jones – to get their thoughts and insights on the game.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.