Adding Two More Final Four Telecasts is An Interesting Move

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 19th, 2013

Watch or listen to enough of your favorite team’s games, and it’s easy to get attached to a particular announcer, play-by-play man, or both. For better or worse, fans get comfortable hearing the same voice every time they turn on their radio or television to watch their teams play. Sometimes fans discuss what they like or don’t like about their team’s radio or television broadcasts. Being a fan of a team is – whether you like it or not – being a fan of the radio and television announcers that call that team’s games as well. You may not like what they have to say all the time, but those guys are people you sort of just learn to deal with – lest you begin pressing the mute button on your TV remote anytime you watch your team play, or neglecting games in favor of listening to music on long car rides.

Adding two separate telecasts, tailored specifically to each team, to the national product seems like a good idea (USA Today).

A lot of people actually enjoy their favorite team’s radio and TV broadcasters. I happen to find Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez entertaining and informative (As for the team they cover… that’s a different story). That’s the idea that CBS and Turner Sports had in mind, one would think, when they decided they would air three different telecasts for the two 2014 Final Four games. There will be a standard broadcast airing on TBS that will likely feature CBS’ top announcing crew of Steve Kerr, Greg Anthony, Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson. The other two broadcasts will use announcers and “camera angles” to accommodate the fan bases of the competing teams (The national championship game will still be carried solely on CBS). Who will be selected to call the TNT and TruTV telecasts is yet to be determined, according to a report from Sports Business Journal, but it should also be noted that Turner and CBS expect to air one set of advertisements at the same time across the three productions.

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Which Side Of The 1966 Texas Western-Kentucky Rematch Will The Media Focus On?

Posted by nvr1983 on October 24th, 2013

In the past few years, there has been a movement to use games to commemorate significant historic events. One example of this occurred last season when Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis arranged a game between Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) to honor the 1963 NCAA regional semifinal where the Bulldogs traveled beyond state lines in violation of a court order that forbade them from playing a team with African-Americans. While many such games remain in the memory of sports fans, few actually become landmark events that even a casual sports fan can identify. The 1966 National Championship game between Texas Western (now the University of Texas at El-Paso) and Kentucky is one such classic game. So when current UTEP coach Tim Floyd announced yesterday that the two schools hope to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original Brown vs. Board of Education game with a rematch, we were intrigued. The details are still in question, but it is believed that the game will take place in Maryland (the original game was played at Cole Field House in College Park) on Martin Luther King Day, in 2016.

Will The Focus Be On Texas Western Or The Rupp Narrative? (Credit: El Paso Times)

Will The Focus Be On Texas Western Or The Rupp Narrative? (Credit: El Paso Times)

For anyone unfamiliar with the story of this game (and didn’t see the 2006 movie chronicling the event, Glory Road), Texas Western, a relative upstart led by fiery young coach Don Haskins, started five African-American players in its lineup. Its opponent in the national championship game, Kentucky, was led by legendary four-time national champion head coach Adolph Rupp, who started five Caucasian players. Texas Western won the game, 72-65, and in so doing set in motion a slow but steady revolution involving race relations in the sport. Some 31 years later, the integration of the game had come so far that Kentucky hired an African-American, Tubby Smith, as its new head coach, and never thought twice about it. Smith, who won his own national title at Kentucky in 1998, is now in the same Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame as Rupp.

The reasons for why this game ultimately took on such significance are complex and numerous, but as anybody who has sat through a high school American history class is aware, the mid-1960s were the height of the activism and tensions of the civil rights era throughout much of the country. This was particularly so in relation to the integration of schools, for which athletics often served as public theater. Over time (and fairly or unfairly), two giants in college athletics — Kentucky’s Rupp and Alabama football head coach Bear Bryant — came to symbolize a tacit but legitimate resistance to athletic integration. Some of the criticism lobbed at both highly successful southern coaches was certainly earned, but to a large degree, it now serves as an easy literary crutch for journalists to discuss the era.

Still, should this event occur in three years, the 50th anniversary rematch between these two schools should serve as an interesting history lesson for those not familiar with the story behind it. We just hope that the lesson that they will take from what would no doubt be a nationally-televised blockbuster game will be a  positive one of inclusiveness and integration, one derived from the spirit of the Texas Western squad and the pioneers who paved the way for them rather than another negative historical narrative built around the misgivings of Rupp.

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If a Coach Says Something Interesting at a Media Day, Does It Make a Sound?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 18th, 2013

There is nothing quite like media day season, is there? Well, okay there is, but amidst all the generic answers and meaningless chatter are tiny, real pieces of actually interesting information – I swear. In case you haven’t spent the week sifting through sound bites and press releases, here are a few of the more noteworthy revelations from recent media days in the AAC, ACC, and Pac-12.

No Speed Limit At USC -- If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

No Speed Limit At USC — If You Want To Play Slow, Andy Enfield Thinks You Should Head Across Town

Let’s start out west. While some may have been disappointed by the lack of intra-LA fireworks at Pac-12 media day, we’re going to count the continued discussion of the UCLA-USC “rivalry” as a step in the right direction. Earlier in the week, Andy Enfield was quoted as saying “we [USC] play uptempo basketball here – if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” He took a predictable shot at softening the blow of those words on Thursday, but let’s focus instead on his tacit admission that the quote is real. Sarcastic or not, those words exited his mouth. Steve Alford played nice and refused to bite in response to the comment, but you better believe that the architect of those grinding, tough New Mexico teams would love nothing more than a snail-paced 65-35 beat-down of his cross-town foes come January 5. The tempo clash will be a constant subplot to the rivalry as long as these two coaches are at the helm, and despite the niceties of yesterday’s media day, don’t expect Enfield’s declaration to disappear from memory anytime soon.

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Boston Sports Radio Show Conducts The Shortest Interview Ever With Rick Pitino

Posted by nvr1983 on October 3rd, 2013

Over the years we have heard plenty of radio guests hang up when they disagreed with the host’s comments or line of questioning. Having listened to The Dan LeBatard radio show for years I have heard this happen on several occasions, but what happened to Rick Pitino today on Toucher & Rich, a Boston-based radio show, might be the most embarrassing piece of sports radio “journalism” that I can remember.

We Suspect That Rick Was Not Entertained

We Suspect That Rick Was Not Entertained

Here is their “interview” with Pitino:

Fred Toucher: We are joined by Rick Pitino, former coach of the Celtics, current coach of the Louisville Cardinals, who won the national championship. Rick Pitino, hello!

Pitino: Morning, guys.

Toucher: You stink. You ruined the Celtics.

(Hosts hang up and laugh uproariously for several minutes with a few comments in between)

After the laughter died down, the hosts did make some salient points questioning what qualified Pitino to write several leadership books and whether anybody should be taking advice from a basketball coach on how to run a business (this applies to all coaches who do so not just Pitino).

You can listen to the full segment below:

 

Unfortunately, Pitino was no longer on the line (as the hosts hung up on him) so he couldn’t answer any additional questions. While I understand how much Boston dislikes Pitino (lived in Boston from 2001 through 2012), I have no idea what good this type of radio segement does other than to make Pitino look like a sympathetic figure.

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ESPN, College Sports Programming Face Uncertain Future

Posted by BHayes on August 29th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

If you love college athletics, you have little choice but to love ESPN. The “Worldwide Leader” has long dominated the broadcasting of college athletic events, especially in the two sports that matter most – football and basketball. Earlier in the week, the New York Times released a three-part series of investigative reports that examined the central role ESPN has played in the rise of college sports programming. Many of their discoveries pertaining to the past, present, and future states of the industry fall very much outside the scope of common knowledge, and we came to find out that university athletic officials are actually not all that that different from fans when it comes to ESPN. The network’s value to the world of college athletics is so prodigious, and their monopolizing grasp sufficiently expansive, that whether they like it or not, conference representatives and university athletic departments have been forced to embrace and cater to the network and their needs. Just like us, there is no alternative: They must love ESPN. But in this age of ever-evolving broadcast media possibilities, where cable networks are suddenly finding themselves on perilous footing, the question of the day is whether ESPN will be able to maintain that firm grip on the college sports programming market moving forward.

Jay Bilas Is Just One Of The Many ESPN Personalities We Have Come To Know Well Over The Years; What Is The Network's Future When It Comes To College Sports Programming?

Jay Bilas Is Just One Of The Many ESPN Personalities We Have Come To Know Well Over The Years; What Is The Network’s Future When It Comes To College Sports Programming? (Getty Images)

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, ESPN built a swath of broadcasting rights to football and basketball games in most of the major conferences. They had no real competition in the space, and were able to get away with accumulating rights for more games than they had time to broadcast. This sort of “warehousing” did not sit well with conference and university athletic officials, who naturally sought maximum television exposure for their conferences and teams. But with no other key players in the marketplace, they had no other option but to stick with the all-powerful ESPN. A 2004 Justice Department investigation into the practice of warehousing prompted the creation of ESPNU as an accommodation to some of those complaints, but while other networks have attempted to beef up their college sports programming volume – Fox, CBS, NBC most notable among them – ESPN still maintains a stranglehold strong enough to force schools to accede to their every demand.

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#notjustforplayers – College Coaches Are Starting to Figure Out Benefits of Twitter

Posted by BHayes on August 20th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

Twitter may be just seven years old, but the social media tool has already found ubiquity in the world of college athletics. Rare is the college athlete (particularly in the revenue sports of football and basketball) without a Twitter handle, and rarer still is the day that passes without a major college basketball or football headline breaking from the Twitter-verse. College hoops recruits and transfers often use their 140-character snippets to announce their first, or next, college destination, while current players are keen to keeping their followers aware of breaking news from their program, summer plans, and even personal injury statuses. Quite simply, Twitter fuels the college basketball rumor mill. But for as much relevance as the platform has found within the game, one group that has failed to universally embrace it has been the head coaches. Coaches have no accepted industry standard to follow on how much to tweet, what to tweet about, or even whether to tweet in the first place. Their wide variety of approaches to the tool prompted The Sporting News to take a deeper look at how the head men in the Power Seven (AAC included) conferences use Twitter. Their findings make for a fun read – and should prompt a follow or two, but also provide an entrée into an emerging topic – how exactly are coaches using Twitter as a tool for growing their program?

Tim Miles May Not Be A Household Name Yet, But He Is Getting Closer With Every Tweet

Nebraska’s Tim Miles May Not Be A Household Name Yet, But He Is Getting Closer With Every Tweet

Back in 2009, Twitter was considered so toxic that Mike Leach banned his entire football team (Texas Tech at the time) from using it. Four years later, that very same Mike Leach has over 40,000 followers and uses his feed to inform Washington State fans of happenings both relevant (“practice went great in Lewiston”) and irrelevant (“one of my favorite TV shows was Magic City on Starz. Wish they hadn’t cancelled it.”). Leach’s college hoops coaching brethren have made a similar discovery. Leading the way in the Twitter world, as he does in many other categories, is Kentucky’s John Calipari. Coach Cal’s 1.2 million followers are more than nine times as many as the second most-followed college coach (Indiana’s Tom Crean), and he uses his Twitter notoriety in exactly the way a solid front-runner should. Befitting his on and off-court personality, Calipari tweets often and honestly, mostly making sure that UK fans are privy to all the happenings around his program. When you are speaking to a fan base as populous and interested as his Wildcat supporters, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Goal number one should be making program information easy and accessible, and Coach Cal does that as well as any college coach in the Twitter business.

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College Gameday Lineup Sizzles, But Can Show Stand To Improve?

Posted by BHayes on August 15th, 2013

em>Bennet Hayes is an RTC  columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.

During these trying summer months away from the hardwood, a favorite pastime of college basketball fans is putting together the jigsaw puzzle that is the schedule for the season ahead. We still don’t have all the pieces in hand here in mid-August, but over the past few weeks we have heard announcements regarding in-season tournaments, multi-conference challenges, and select non-conference match-ups. The next shoe to drop in the schedule release process came Wednesday, when ESPN unveiled its 2013-14 College Gameday schedule. This new delivery of hoops action to come is a mouth-watering series of match-ups with a pretty comprehensive geographic blueprint (games in seven different conferences are included, plus a Gonzaga vs. Memphis non-conference tilt), and in all likelihood, even more complete coverage of the top of the preseason polls. There is a distinct possibility that every single team in this season’s preseason Top 10 will make an appearance on Gameday. Excited for Saturday nights in 2014 yet? It’ll be hard for that slate to disappoint, but if you will allow for a little nit-picking, we have a few good ideas on how to make Gameday – already a great thing – even greater.

The College Gameday Crew Has A Winter Of Titanic College Hoops Matchups Ahead Of Them, But No Return Trip To Hinkle Fieldhouse Means We Are Probably Safe To Avoid The Crew's Hickory High Jerseys This Season

The College Gameday Crew Has A Winter Of Titanic College Hoops Matchups Ahead Of Them, But No Return Trip To Hinkle Fieldhouse Means We Are Probably Safe To Avoid Davis, Rose, Phelps And Bilas In Their “Memorable” Hickory High Jerseys 

With the original and (still) most popular version of College Gameday coming to you from college football’s most famed venues each fall Saturday, there are a few things we wish the hoops variety would steal from their gridiron counterparts. For one, what’s the rush with scheduling? My Wednesday afternoon may have been a little less exciting yesterday, but why not wait until a couple weeks out (like the football guys do) to set the games? That way we avoid providing disappointing teams a national stage (for example, Southern Illinois entered its January 2008 Gameday spot against Creighton with a losing record), and also potentially allow fans to enjoy games featuring surprise teams that may not have been on the preseason radar. Plus, if nothing better materializes, these brilliant original match-ups can stand. Michigan will still be visiting Sparty on January 25, Duke and UNC will still be facing off at Cameron on March 8, and life cannot be any worse!

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Bill Raftery and Gus Johnson Calling Games Together? Yes, Please…

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 1st, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The college basketball viewing experience in enhanced by exciting play-by-play commentary. This is not a difficult concept to grasp: Watching games on TV is more fun when the people explaining the dynamics of those games, a) know what they’re talking about; b) don’t go off on too many Vitale-ian tangential rants; and c) employ proper diction and tone, using the inflection of their vocal cords, to accentuate the most thrilling moments. There are but a few commentators who have genuinely mastered their craft, and needless to say, Bill Raftery is one of them. This name should sound familiar; Raftery’s ties to Big East hoops run deep – he’s practically synonymous with ESPN’s “Big Monday” series. When the foundational core of the league’s membership broke off from its unglamorous Conference USA cohorts this season to form its own 10-team conference, taking the Big East league name out the door, it signed a new media rights deal with Fox and ended its long and fruitful connection with Big Monday. That left Raftery with a rather crucial decision to make: Stick with ESPN, where he became part of one of the sport’s best broadcast teams with Jay Bilas and Sean McDonough? Or follow his Big East roots to the upstart sports network Fox Sports 1 (set to debut on August 17)? Raftery wisely chose the latter, and college hoops fans will very much appreciate the implications of his decision.

Adding Raftery is a fantastic move for Fox Sports 1's college basketball broadcast team (AP).

Adding Raftery is a fantastic move for Fox Sports 1’s college basketball broadcast team (AP).

If Raftery is the most professional hoops announcer in the business, Gus Johnson is easily the most exciting. Johnson, one of Fox’s top play-by-play men across numerous sports (including college football and soccer), was already set to become a part of Fox Sports 1’s Big East coverage. Raftery joined Fox with the understanding he’d be allowed to continue calling Big East games. I’ve basically drawn the dots for you – now all you have to do is connect them. YES: Johnson and Raferty will be calling games together next season. Fox confirmed the dream pairing in a release last Thursday.

Adding a renowned, popular veteran like Bill Raftery to a family of announcers at FOX Sports that already includes many of sports television’s biggest names is an incredible coup,” said FOX Sports Executive Vice President and Executive Producer John Entz. “More importantly, in teaming Bill with Gus, we have reunited the most energized, entertaining college basketball broadcast team ever, and we can’t wait for them to work their first game.”

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Watching the NCAA Tournament Remains Popular: Duh

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 24th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be found @ChrisDJohnsonn. 

College basketball is an extremely entertaining sport to watch. Starting in November, when non-conference play mashes together different conferences’ best teams in far-flung locations for fun, tropical, typically thrilling elimination tournaments, and on through April at the annual national championship net-cutting ceremony, college basketball is never not awesome. For college hoops diehards, this is one of the most obvious statements of all time. Of course watching college basketball is great. Other North American sports fans will respectfully disagree, instead opting to peek in at college hoops in the early weeks of spring, right as conference tournaments heat up and teams kick into next gear for their last-gasp bubble pushes.

An excellent Final Four brought correspondingly strong TV ratings (AP Photo).

An excellent Final Four brought correspondingly strong TV ratings (AP Photo).

Whether you follow college basketball all year long, or have long since dedicated yourself to becoming a March hoops hanger-on, the fact remains that the NCAA Tournament is unflinchingly popular. No matter your level of interest in the progression of teams and coaches over months of non-conference and conference competition, when the brackets start flying off the copy machine, and C.J. McCollum is leading No. 15 Lehigh to a massive upset of near universally-loathed Duke, you’re TV remote is affixed firmly to your reclining chair arm rest or furniture of choice. When the lights turn on, you’re sitting down, losing valuable time at your day job, anxiously checking scores at every available digital outlet and watching. You’re watching the NCAA Tournament.

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So What If Turner Broadcasts the Final Four? 68 Beats 96 Any Day…

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 8th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Whenever someone brings up the possibility of a 96-team NCAA Tournament, reaction is unanimously predictable. Folks cringe, unnerved at the idea of seeing the regular season devalued at the expense of more Tournament games involving fewer quality teams. Bubble discussion would cease to be anything remotely close to riveting; when losing conference records and +100 RPI figures (and even uglier tempo-free profiles) are perfectly qualified for at-large admission, the enterprise breaks down. Opening-round byes for top seeds would feel inauthentic. Nobody wants a 96–team NCAA field. Maybe the NCAA, for strictly monetary purposes, but that’s it. The consensus is uncompromising. We bended our backs for 68, but the line of resistance is taut anywhere beyond that.

Next season's Final Four will have a different TV provider.

Next season’s Final Four will have a different TV provider.

If it weren’t for Turner Broadcasting System, the famous sports and drama-bearing cable network otherwise known as TBS or “Turner,” we might just be talking about 96 in harrowing certainty rather than lamenting the distant possibility of a hugely expanded field. That’s the way Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy sees it — that Turner, in co-bankrolling a deal with CBS in spring 2010 to keep the NCAA Tournament set at 68 teams, essentially “saved all of college basketball.”

The truth is that 68 saved everyone from 96. The truth is that 96 would have been the worst thing ever to happen to college basketball, robbing teams of incentive to excel in the regular season and fans from investing any emotion or interest in how it developed. And the truth is Turner’s cable wealth—it receives income from both subscription fees and advertising, whereas network channels receive only the latter—is the reason the NCAA was able to hold the line at a 68-team field.

In one of the few instances where television contracts actually didn’t ruin something totally awesome about college sports, Turner deserves a hearty round of applause each and every year we watch Greg Gumbel on Selection Sunday list off 68 teams and then stop dead in his tracks. No more, no less. That’s the number the NCAA, Turner and CBS has settled on and – whatever your feelings on the “play-in” games – I kind of like things the way they are. This setup works. The number creates enough competitive balance to evoke truly compelling bubble cut-line angst, while remaining inclusive enough to allow any and all measurably deserving teams to play their way in. Win a few non-conference games, play .500 ball in your power league (smaller leagues have less margin for error), don’t lose to Old Dominion and Delaware in the non-conference (ah, Virginia), and you’re ticket to bracketland is as good as punched. It really is that simple. Could you imagine how much simpler it could have been with a 96-team threshold? I know what the depths of a 96-team bracket looks like. It’s called the CBI, which is a euphemistic way of saying, 96 teams is a dark and scary place.

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Big East Fully Embraces Importance of TV In Hiring Mike Aresco as Its New Commissioner

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 15th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC  columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For years the Big East has sat back and watched as conference realignment marginalized its position in the modern college athletics landscape. This realignment – driven almost entirely by football-oriented television rights contracts – prompted Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two league forerunners with longstanding rivalries and successful track records, to bolt for the ACC, a league that in May announced a restructured broadcasting rights deal with ESPN worth $3.6 billion over 15 years. Longtime affiliate West Virginia and near-member TCU also deserted the struggling league in favor of the Big 12 – another league cashing in on the recent power conference TV contract frenzy by agreeing to a $1.2 billion deal with Fox. The Big East in response embarked on a nationwide courtship to increase its membership before entering a crucial 60-day negotiating window with ESPN this September to secure a lucrative TV rights deal of its own. It has since added Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida, with Navy, Boise State and San Diego State also joining as football-only members. Once a bastion of exemplary conference leadership and stability, the Big East has morphed itself into an amalgam of disparate parts with no geographical unity or identity. More importantly, its bargaining hand heading into the crucial negotiating period to determine its future status in the major conference pecking order lacks substance. And so the expectation was that the Big East, now a shell of it former self and withering at the expense of TV rights-motivated inter-league poaching, would muddle its discussions with ESPN and further diminish its standing within the power conference structure.

As the Big East prepares for its crucial TV rights negotiating period with ESPN, Aresco is the perfect leader. It remains to be seen how he will fare in his new position beyond this fall.

The floundering league took major strides Tuesday toward securing a far sweeter deal than it otherwise may have anticipated when it announced the hiring of Mike Aresco as its new conference commissioner. Aresco’s latest position comes on the heels of his stint as vice president of programming at CBS Sports, before which he worked in the programming department at ESPN. The Big East scrambled to fill the vacant position after former commissioner John Marinatto resigned in May amid concerns that he was ill-prepared to lead the league into its critical television negotiations period. The clear hope is that Aresco will work in conjunction with Evolution Media Capital (EMC) and Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures (a group that recently negotiated the Pac-12’s groundbreaking $3 billion TV rights deal) in striking a similarly advantageous package. If the Big East and ESPN cannot reach a deal within the exclusive 60-day negotiating window, then the league’s TV rights will be open to the highest bidder.

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Ranking the 2012 ESPN “College Gameday” Match-ups

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 9th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For college hoops fans, winter Saturdays are an overwhelming blur. With so many games spaced out throughout various networks, sitting down and selecting an optimal day-long viewing experience can be somewhat bewildering. When in doubt, the consensus gravitates towards ESPN, where the “College Gameday” crew doles out a constant flow of college hoops action, providing insightful commentary along the way. Starting at 10 AM ET with a studio show staged at that week’s featured game site, a raucous crowd howling in the backdrop, the panel lays out the day’s action, capped with a late-show pick ‘em segment which invariably has the effect of inciting the avid supporters on hand. Then it’s a day’s long succession of enticing fixtures, spanning different leagues, time zones and intrigue levels. The crew — Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and for the first time this year Jalen Rose, plus whoever else graces the courtside stage in any given week —  puts a bow on the day’s action with an hour-long recap show, which leads into that week’s marquee matchup. There are few things better than a “Gameday” Saturday: a highly entertaining and energetic crew of college hoops enthusiasts sandwiching a whirlwind of hoop with enlightening breakdowns and analysis about the day’s happenings.

Loved or Hated, Everyone Watches Gameday

In this early-August college hoops lull where the happenings on the gridiron seem to take precedent at most every power conference university, we long dearly for those delightful, couch-side Saturdays. Fortunately, ESPN provided a sneak peak of just how magnificent those Saturdays might be. The network released its “Gameday” schedule Wednesday, and the lineup – at least as far as I can tell from a rather distant August viewpoint – is the best I’ve seen in quite a long time. Maybe ever. The bad news is that January 19, the first Saturday of viewing, seems a pretty long ways away. Not to worry. Before you know it, Midnight Madness will arrive, November and December will slide by and the eight-week selection of action-packed Saturdays will commence. To pique your interest, I’ve put together a ranked list of the eight featured games. There’s no hard and fast criteria here; take this as a simple preferential ordering of which match-ups I feel carry the most appeal. Longstanding rivalries, interesting venues and conference/national title implications will all factor into this 100%-for-fun exercise. On paper, it’s hard to find fault with the selected games. But between now and January, a bad start or two could dampen the hype factor around some of these games. All we can hope is that the scheduled contests maintain their outwardly riveting stature throughout the winter months.

Note: All game times ET.

1. March 9: Syracuse at Georgetown (12 PM), Duke at North Carolina (9 PM)

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