68!!!

Posted by rtmsf on April 22nd, 2010

Has there ever been a non-prime number so beautiful as this one? 

The NCAA made the right decision, from its release this afternoon:

Late Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee unanimously passed a recommendation to the Division I Board of Directors to increase tournament field size to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 Championship. The recommendation will be reviewed by the Division I Board of Directors at its April 29 meeting.

Much more later…

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ESPN Giving Up on NCAA Tourney Rights?

Posted by rtmsf on April 16th, 2010

Word has leaked through Sports Business Daily that the NCAA has two offers on the table for consideration of a new multi-year contract for coverage of college basketball’s premier event, the NCAA Tournament.  A joint bid from CBS (the existing rights-holder) and Turner Sports amounted to an $840M annual deal over fourteen years, while an ESPN bid came in at around $800M annually for the same duration.  The NCAA’s current exclusive deal with CBS (involving only 65 teams) is at $710M per year through 2013, so either of the proposed deals looks better in comparison.

ESPN Going Out Like That?

But what does this mean?  If this really represents ESPN’s final offer to carry March Madness, then CBS/Turner will probably have the rights for the foreseeable future, which would be fine if the Blinking Eye Network had a competent business partner in this venture.  No disrespect to Turner Sports when it comes to covering the NBA or MLB, but college basketball?  Does the network even carry a single game all season long?  Yet they’re going to switch off every other year with CBS on Final Four coverage?  This is insanity.  With the additional 31 games, we’ll have Marv Albert and Doug Collins doing random first round games where they’ll be calling Brad Stevens “Bud” and his star player “Dwight” Howard.  If you need a parallel example, look no further than how Fox has crapped the bed covering the BCS Bowls the last few seasons.  Yeah, the NFL and CFB are the same game, right — we can do that!  Ugh.

According to the NCAA, though, they are seeking to re-engage the WWL in an effort to integrate what only makes complete and total sense — for a cable network that devotes much of its existence from November through March to finish off what it starts each season.  You’re rarely going to find us around here shilling for ESPN, but this one appears to be a no-brainer from all possible perspectives except one.  Guess what that one is?  You got it — money.  It’s no secret that CBS is losing money on its current $710M annual deal to carry the Tournament, so how does ESPN expect to be able to make those dollars back with a bid at $800M or more?  Ahh yes, the mystifying and little-understood cable carriage fees.

Put very simply, ESPN is in a prime position to take complete control of college basketball from start to finish of every season for the next generation if it simply ups its bid by about $50M per year.  We’re certainly not saying that is an insignificant number, but with the inherent revenue advantage that ESPN has at its disposal based on cable carriage fees in addition to the increased advertising bump, this needs to happen.  ESPN needs to act like the monopoly that it is and take control of this situation.  Stay tuned.  A decision will likely be made within the next two weeks.

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Step One to NCAApocalypse: Opt Out

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2010

According to a piece published in Sports Business Journal yesterday, NCAA president Jim Isch is close to an announcement to recommend that the organization opt out of the last three years of its 11-year, $6B contract with CBS, and in so doing open the Grandest Postseason Spectacle in All of Sports open to the highest bidder(s) under a 96-team format.  An announcement on his recommendation could come as soon as this week, and the NCAA Executive Committee will meet on April 29 to formally make a decision.

CBS is Driving This as Much as the NCAA

One aspect of these negotiations that has been lost on many commentators to date, including us, is the admission that over-the-air network CBS is in favor of such a move just as much as the NCAA.  The Blinking Eye is seeking some relief for the over two billion dollars it’s on the hook for over the final three years of the agreement, and the possibility of picking up a partner cable network such as Turner Sports or allowing ESPN to take it over completely would defray some of its considerable costs. Despite improved ratings and a great all-around Tournament from start to finish in 2010, the network still took a bath on this year’s Big Dance.  This quote from an executive within CBS is telling:  “It’s pretty clear that an over-the-air network can’t afford this event by itself.”

All those emails we hope you’ve been sending to Isch (jisch@ncaa.org) do not appear to be working, and we certainly understand why.  Dollar signs are all anyone cares to see here, and short of Myles Brand coming back from the grave to pull a Ghost of March Madness Past on Isch and company in their sleep, nothing is going to change.  As we said last month, prepare yourselves.  We’re going to have all summer to bitch and moan about this isch.

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Around the Media World: Expansion 96

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010

So much is being written this week about the NCAA’s money grab to expand the NCAA Tournament, we thought it would be helpful to collate some of the better quotes from articles around the MSM and blogosphere for your perusal.  Pretty much everybody agrees on two key points: it’s all about money, and it sucks.  Discuss.

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports.com

I realize money drives college athletics, and if the NCAA granted me that, I could shrug my shoulders and move on. Obviously, I’ll watch the regular season and NCAA tournament no matter what. But Thursday’s message about creating more opportunities was insincere and, frankly, insulting because expansion isn’t about creating more opportunities. It’s about creating more revenue. Anybody who tells you otherwise is insincere at best, lying at worst. And if my choices are to hear a lie or total silence, I’ll take Greg Shaheen sitting on a stage staring straight ahead, mouth closed, not a word, awkward as it may be.

Dano O’Neil, ESPN.com

To be exact, 2,505 words were uttered in the opening address by Greg Shaheen, the NCAA’s vice president for basketball and business strategies.  Yes, I counted.  And for the record, there were 1,666 words in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Abe Lincoln needed just 268 words to define the importance of the Civil War in his Gettysburg Address.  Which is a long-winded way of saying, this was a spin that Baryshnikov would envy.  By either next season or 2014, the 96-team bracket is coming to a centerfold near you.  So before making the official announcement to destroy what many consider to be the perfect postseason, the NCAA needs you to understand why 96 teams is good for you — even if the folks in charge sound an awful lot like a mom trying to shove Brussels sprouts down a toddler’s throat.

Tommy Craggs, Deadspin

In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like sportswriter John Feinstein, who badgered a hapless NCAA VP yesterday over tournament expansion and thereby became a hero to anti-expansionists for all the wrong reasons.  The NCAA’s press conference yesterday amounted to little more than a Tupperware demonstration of the locked-in freshness and burping seal of a 96-team tournament

Read the rest of this entry »

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ATB: Dayton Wins the (Last?) NIT

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010

The Day the NCAA Tournament Died.  Heading into a weekend where we should all be celebrating a great NCAA Tournament with multiple upsets, surprises, twists, turns, shakes and shimmies… we’re all rightfully excoriating the NCAA after its even-feebler-than-imaginable explanation of why Expansion 96 is probably going to happen, as soon as next year.  We’re too depressed to write much more about it right now, but our very own John Stevens says more than enough here on our behalf.

Dayton Flyers: NIT Champs (AP)

NIT ChampionshipDayton 79, North Carolina 68.  In what may have been the final NIT after over seventy years of history, Dayton ran out to a 45-32 halftime lead and was able to hold off a late UNC charge to win its second-ever title.  UD’s Marcus Johnson had 20 points and teammates Chris Wright and Chris Johnson both added 14/9.  With arguably the Flyers’ top two players set to return in 2010-11 (the two Chrises), this could serve as a great building block for Brian Gregory’s team heading into next year.  As for Carolina, Roy Williams admitted that it was a disappointing season for his team afterward, but he thought that his team started playing hard in the postseason and will have a foundation to build on next season.  This year’s 17 losses (vs. 20 wins) is the second-most in the program’s long and illustrious history of basketball.  The Heels will lose seniors Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard and quite possibly sophomore Ed Davis to the NBA Draft, but his team should be healthier next year and welcome another sick recruiting class that includes the #1 player in America in Harrison Barnes.  It’s unlikely that UNC will be back in this event next year, even if it continues to exist.

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Not an April Fool’s Joke, Unfortunately…

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2010

Like we wrote yesterday, you’d best prepare yourselves…



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Expansion 96: Brace Yourselves, It’s Coming…

Posted by rtmsf on March 31st, 2010

Folks, we need to brace ourselves for this.  If you’re at all like us, and we suspect that you are, you’ve been holding out considerable hope that the beauty of this year’s NCAA Tournament — all the great first weekend games, the four regional finals coming down to the wire, the story of small-school Butler making it back home for the Final Four — would somehow sway the powers-that-be to leave things well enough alone.  But we know people like this, and you know people like this.  What we see as perfection, like the Mona Lisa with nary a blemish, they see as an opportunity to sell more Mona Lisa tickets and merchandise.  Profit motive is ALL these people care about, and when that’s your rather obtuse worldview, bigger is always better.  The rest of it be damned.  But as one politician recently put it, it’s coming… whether we like it or not.  Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, one of the voices of reason in previous interviews on expansion, has apparently now landed on the side of the profiteers and money men as well.  He said in an interview with USA Today that he thinks that expansion is ‘probable,’ reflecting a growing sentiment among NCAA college presidents that this is a good idea.  The NCAA Board of Directors will meet in late April and the topic is on the agenda in light of the decision to opt out of its current television contract with CBS and entertain other offers. 

Start Getting Accustomed to This Now

So even though something like 11% of people polled on SportsNation are in favor of expansion (an unscientific poll, but do you know anyone supporting this?), it’s time for all of us to take it up the arse buck up and figure out how we’re going to come to terms with this.  So in the spirit of turning the other cheek, seeing the glass as half-full and other meaningless aphorisms, we’re going to present you with five reasons that Expansion 96 will actually (ahem) make the NCAA Tournament experience better.  Blasphemer, thy name is RTC… we know.  Feel free to skewer us on the spit along with NCAA Executive Director Jim Isch (jisch@ncaa.org) if you like. 

  1. The 2010 NIT Has Been Eminently Watchable.  Getting past the joke that the NIT is the “Not Invited Tournament” and so on, the ‘junior’ tourney’s games this year have been surprisingly competitive and fun to watch as a hoops-fix during the interregnum between NCAA dates.  Since the NCAA is talking about simply synthesizing the NIT into the NCAA Tournament, the 32 NIT teams would (mostly) populate the bottom third of the new legal-paper sized bracket that everyone would carry around with them.  And although very few hoops fans other than those of the NIT teams bother to follow the games, the quality of play has improved over the past several years and it would probably make more sense to have everyone in college basketball focused on the same national postseason tournament every year rather than split between two (we’re not keen on including the CBI/CIT yet).
  2. The First Weekend Becomes the First Week.  Under the new format of 96 teams, we presume that the games would begin on Tuesday following Selection Sunday and run for six consecutive days through the following Sunday.  It would break out like this: Tuesday (16 games), Wednesday (16 games), Thursday (16 games), Friday (16 games), Saturday (8 games), Sunday (8 games).  The basketball bonanza of the opening weekend has just become the opening week, so go ahead and take off the entire thing from work.  Now, you may say along with everyone else that you’re really not interested in watching a Texas Tech-Seton Hall game because it represents two bad teams where somebody has to win, but are you telling us that you wouldn’t be intrigued by a UNC-William & Mary first round matchup?  Or UConn-Northeastern?  We’d by lying if we said that those games weren’t interesting to us, and you would be too. 
  3. The Regular Season Still Matters.  For the old-timers who lament the days when winning the regular season meant something, expansion will help make good on that issue.  No longer will teams from the smaller conferences put together great seasons only to be left out in the cold on Selection Sunday because they had a bad day in the conference tournament.  The new Tourney would include all tournament and regular season champions plus the at-larges, rewarding nearly every team that had a really good season. 
  4. The Bye is a Huge Incentive For At-Large Teams.  Presumably the best 32 teams as determined by the Selection Committee would get the first round bye to the Thursday/Friday games.  Staying above that line will be a HUGE incentive for those schools.  The possibility of winning three games in five days against quality opponents to advance to the Sweet Sixteen is far lower than it is to win two games in three days.  This will help prevent teams who are safely in the NCAA Tournament from not giving their all (“coasting”) during the end of the season and/or their conference tournament because of the possibility of slipping below a #8 seed.  And those teams who are in the #5-#12 range during the last month of the year will have considerably more to play for every night out.
  5. Potentially Better Storylines.  We all love when a Cinderella breaks through to the Sweet Sixteen.  Consider the possibility of a team rated in the bottom 32 teams winning its first game against a marginally higher-seeded opponent and then follows it up with a win against a bye team.  The third game of the week for that team will be fraught with excitement as they’ll then be facing in all likelihood a top-16 team for the right to move into the second weekend.  There will be more time to get to know these Cinderellas and support them as the Tournament builds to its opening weekend crescendo.  Additionally, there will be a greater likelihood of a #1 seed losing its first game.  The really bad small conference teams will lose in the opening round, leaving all four #1 seeds to play a marginally better team with a win already under its belt.  Rather than the MEAC team du jour, it could potentially be a dangerous BCS team like Northwestern or St. John’s this year. 
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