November 27, 2011

Should college hoops start later in the year?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

TODAY'S QUESTION: We're three weeks into the basketball season and there already have been some big upsets and some key injuries. But has anyone really noticed? Would college basketball be better off starting its season in late November rather than in early November?

Pat Forde's answer:
College basketball's start date is fine where it is. Tipping off later in the month doesn't free the sport of football's overpowering presence - Thanksgiving week always is a football smorgasbord, with major pro and college games from Thursday through Sunday. College basketball picks its spots that week with tournaments from Maui and New York and assorted Caribbean locales, but most teams want to get games under their belt before playing those tourneys. So they start a few weeks earlier. I have no problem with the timing. The nature of the college hoops beast is that the sport will toil in the shadows of King Football until January - February, really, if you include the NFL schedule. February and March are the college game's time to shine, and it usually does well with that window.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I get that college basketball isn't going to be in the forefront until after football ends. And I get that true fans know when the season starts. But I still think college basketball as a whole would be better served if there was a uniform start date closer to Thanksgiving. As it is, the first two weeks of the season have two games here and 40 games there. Make it more of an "opening day" feel and start it the weekend before Thanksgiving.

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Steve Megargee's answer:
I don't think it would make much of a difference. Whether the season starts in early November or late November, it's still going to get overshadowed by football. College basketball may be a year-round passion in Kentucky, North Carolina and a few other hotbeds, but the rest of the nation doesn't pay all that much attention to the sport until after the Super Bowl. I don't think delaying the start of the season by a few weeks is going to change that. I do think college basketball could help itself by adding some spice to its opening day. Look at the games that took place on the opening night of this season. St. John's-William & Mary. Mississippi State-Eastern Kentucky. Arizona-Valparaiso. Why not have a more high-profile matchup? The Michigan State-North Carolina game that took place on the first Friday night of the season earned plenty of attention, but that game might have garnered even more hype if it had tipped off the entire 2011-12 season. Or maybe that ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon that takes place each November could serve as the season-opening event. College basketball should do something to try generating more interest early in the season, but I don't believe changing the start date is the answer.

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