The 10 Biggest Stories of 2012 — #9: College Basketball Opens Season With a BangPosted by Chris Johnson on December 27th, 2012
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.
Probably the most common gripe raised about college basketball’s marginally popular stature is the feeling that the season tips off without a momentous opening game or event. Fans bemoan weak non-conference competition and the long drag of conference play with the perceived insignificance of the regular season, resulting in most fans preferring to tune in around late February and into March as intensity heightens and games draw do-or-die implications. But above all else, the most frequent dig strikes at the absence of a grand season tip-off bonanza.
Progress has been made over the years, and last season’s Carrier Classic – played aboard the USS Carl Vinson with a backdrop of gorgeous dusk vistas and President Obama in attendance flanked by an audience of armed forces in military garb – was a massive success. College basketball took another big leap forward this year. It wasn’t on the same level as the NFL’s Thursday Night Kickoff (which was moved to Wednesday night this year for fear that fans would tune out President Obama’s State of the Union Address), or the PGA’s positioning of its biggest event, the Masters, as a lead-in to the majors season. But there’s no doubt college hoops is moving up in the realm of season openers.
Beyond the flawed logistical approach of scheduling three aircraft carrier games, two of which were naively given late afternoon tips in moisture-inclined climates, the hoops calendar commenced with a bang – from the UConn-Michigan State game played at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon to the second annual Champions Classic, where four brand-name programs (Kentucky vs. Duke, Michigan State vs. Kansas) tipped off in a prime time Tuesday night doubleheader. No sport will fracture the nation’s collective football obsession during early November, but college hoops has carved out a larger spot in the figurative water cooler discussions across the country than ever before. As innovative and proactive scheduling minds like Michigan State AD Mark Hollis continue to spew out attention-grabbing fixtures to christen a new campaign, the general opinion will gradually turn from diffidence to invested interest. That’s the hope, at least.