At Operation Basketball, commissioner John Swofford brought up an unsolicited idea on how to improve college basketball–the sport needs an opening day.
“I think it has to be more along the lines of could we start a specific date, such as Thanksgiving weekend, and that’s the start of college basketball, and everybody plays,” he said. “You know, I would tend to look at … making a big deal out of one weekend that in essence is a celebration of the start of the college basketball season. You know, right now it kind of just sort of slowly rolls out of the bucket, so to speak, I guess.”
Since then, the idea that college basketball needs an opening day has become an Issue. Columnists have shared their opinions. Reporters quizzed coaches on how the sport could benefit from that. National media has suggested possible dates for the big event.
Imagine what we could have if Swofford’s idea is ever implemented! Imagine a day when nine of the top 10 teams in the nation all play their openers, and 23 of the top 25 are in action.
A dozen ACC teams could play their openers, many of them at home, but a few at neutral sites, maybe even an international game. There would be plenty of cupcakes, but maybe a couple of solid opponents–Gonzaga, maybe. Possibly a Temple.
There would be wall-to-wall hoops on your TVs. ESPN could carry a couple games, and the Deuce. ESPNU would have a couple games. Then there would be games on the SEC Network, the Big Ten Network, the Pac 12 Network, CBS Sports Network, and of course plenty of games on Watch ESPN & ESPN 3.
After that explosive start to the season, we could continue the rollout of the season over the next couple of days, making a basketball-packed weekend. By the end of the weekend, every team in the conference would have played, with a few, maybe even as many as five, playing two games.
I know just what we could call this college basketball holiday, too: Next Friday.
On Friday, November 13, Duke, NC State, Wake, Miami, Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Syracuse all play their home openers. North Carolina plays Temple in the Veterans Classic in Annapolis. Pitt plays Gonzaga in Okinawa, Japan.
Virginia Tech and BC play on Saturday, and Duke gets in its second game. Florida State opens on Sunday, the same day that State, Wake, Carolina and Clemson get in their second games.
Maybe you’re more interested in national games? You want to see what Kentucky has this season, or Michigan. Plus, you’ve heard good things about Maryland. They all tip off at 7:00 on Friday. Whichever of the three you pick, it will be your second game of the evening, because No. 7 Iowa State plays Colorado at 5:00.
Most of the 7:00 teams are playing overmatched opponents, so once they have their openers in the bag, at 8:00, you can switch over and watch Kansas tip off its season. No. 21 LSU joins the party at 9:00. No. 12 Arizona tips at 9:30, along with No. 16 Utah and No. 22 Baylor. If you have trouble sleeping after all that excitement, you can catch some of No. 14 California against Rice. That starts at 11:30.
There are a total of 153 games involving Division I teams tipping off next Friday night, and 64 of them will be televised on ESPN (2), ESPN 2 (1), ESPN 3 (33), ESPNU (2), Watch ESPN (2), SEC Network (10), CBS Sports Net (2), Pac 12 Network (9), Big Ten Network (2) and Fox Sports 1 (1).
Ten games will be played at neutral sites, topped by Pitt-Gonzaga and Washington-Texas.
Then, on Saturday, 47 games are on the schedule, topped by Kentucky, Duke and Butler. Eleven of them will be televised. There are 44 more on Sunday, with nearly half–20–being televised. Carolina, Wisconsin and Purdue top the list of Sunday games.
The grand total: 244 Division 1 basketball games over a two and a half day period. 95 will be televised. 29 involve ranked teams.
Assuming a game takes two and a half hours (and not the two hour time slot that ESPN gives them), you can watch basketball, uninterrupted from 5 PM on Friday until 3 AM Saturday. Then, nine hours later, you can get started again and watch from noon to 1:30 AM. On Sunday, the schedule goes from noon to 12:30 AM. That’s 36 hours of basketball over a 55 and a half hour span.
Every team you like will play. Many twice. Most on television … as college basketball slowly rolls out of the bucket.
Sorry for the facts. I just wanted to celebrate the start of the college basketball season a little. Now everyone can go back to trying to solve the opening day problem.