Friday, April 23, 2010

Thoughts on College Basketball Expansion to 68

Hello, college basketball fans!

Big news in the college basketball world as the NCAA's will be going to 68. While I want it to go back to 64, 68 is a lot better than 96. Some talk is that the NCAA purposedly pushed 96 to make 68 look like a great thing and we all know it was a ploy to get a new TV contract (which they did).

Speaking of the new TV contract, of course the NCAA Final Four is headed to cable ... but in 2016. And after that, it will still be on CBS every other year up to 2023. I still think the Final Four deserves to be on free TV annually and the ratings justify it but this is a lot better than college football (and of course this actually is a playoff is also a great thing). And at least ESPN didn't get it. I do realize cable TV has much more money to throw around (subscriber fees) but exposure is important too. Even if 90% of America has cable, how many of you would voluntarily cut off 10% of your audience? In the short term, you get more money but in the long run you hurt yourself. The NBA had a lot more playoff games on NBC before they moved most if not all of the conference finals games as well as the rest of the playoffs and the All Star game to cable. Ratings have plummetted. Of course, a lot of it is there is no Michael Jordan but still a lot less exposure. Same with baseball when only one LCS is now on free TV. What league by far is the most popular now? The league that has 95% of games on free TV in local markets and all of their playoff games. And the few cable games are shown locally on local stations. MLB doesn't even do that for playoff games. If you wanted to see my Phillies in the LCS last year, you had to get cable. The NFL actually cares about its fans and about the future instead of the present. They're also the only league where a large majority of games, including the Super Bowl, start before 7pm. Baseball went to all night games for the World Series and basketball to all night games for the NBA Finals, including on the weekends and Sundays. The NFL plays its Super Bowl around 6pm or 6:30pm. Would MLB or the NBA start a game that early on Sunday or Saturday? No. Most kids today may have never seen the end of a World Series or NBA Finals game. But they have seen the end of a Super Bowl. Guess which league these kids will watch 20 years from now.

As for the future play in round, I hope the NCAA finally comes to its senses and gives us the play in games that are fair and the play in games we want. Let's make the teams that actually "earned" their way in the field have to play an extra game to make the 64 while teams that barely get in get to the "main field". The last teams in the field should be happy they have a chance to make the field. Why take away a Winthrop's chance to play a Duke or a Kentucky and play in an arena with seven other teams and make them play in Dayton in front of few fans? Tell me this year you wouldn't have rather seen UTEP vs Illinois play for a 12 seed than Pine Bluff and Winthrop play for a 16? That being said, at least I am assuming they will play all four play in games in the same city and likely the same day so maybe the 8 teams will at least share an arena together before four of them go home. But if the NCAA wants to make more money and if CBS/Turner were smart, they would give us the play in games we all want, four play in games among at large games with the winners advancing as 12 seeds. Who knows, maybe one of these winners beats the 5 seed or even get to the Sweet 16. We know no 16 seed will ever win over a 1 in this format.

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