That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Topic: The ACC/Big Ten Challenge just ended, and the Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge began last night. The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series gears up in earnest this evening after one game last weekend. The Big East/SEC Invitational starts next week. Are you a fan of these conference challenge events and what would you suggest to the powers-that-be to improve them?
Brian Otskey, RTC Contributor
These inter-conference events are good publicity generators and certainly give teams opportunities for quality wins early in the season. I’m a fan of the concept but aside from the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, these events do not receive enough national coverage. ESPN is obviously the driving force behind the ACC/Big Ten but I’d like to see them become more involved in the other events. The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series would be a good start. ESPN televises some games but most are on FSN, stretched out over almost a month. Then we have the Big East/SEC Invitational. The Worldwide Leader covers it but the event has just four teams from each league competing. I realize the Big East is a 16-team monstrosity but why can’t we have 12 Big East teams play all 12 SEC teams over three days? Instead we have two games per night at neutral locations played over two non-consecutive days, hardly creating any buzz. When it comes to the Mountain West and Missouri Valley, let’s face it: most casual fans don’t care about non-name teams competing against each other. It’s a sad reality for us diehards, but casual fan interest makes the money and drives ratings.
David Ely, RTC Contributor
I think any event that prompts teams from the big conferences to play each other rather than the smaller schools is a good idea. Duke playing Michigan State is much better for the sport than Duke-UNC-Asheville or Michigan State-Eastern Michigan. That being said, there are things that could be done done to re-energize these events. I for one am tired of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It’s time to mix up the conferences. Give me an ACC/Big East Challenge to pit the two supposed basketball meccas against each other in a winner-takes-all series. How about a Big Ten/Big 12 Hardwood Series? There’s already a little bit of bad blood between the two conferences because of football realignment. Basketball should capitalize on that hatred. Whoever wins the first series gets the Texas football program?
Zach Hayes, RTC Editor/Contributor
I’m a huge fan of these conference challenge events. It forces coaches to play true road games against quality opponents and sets up marquee matchups that normally may not occur. Two years ago, I distinctly remember Duke was sent to Purdue in the ACC-Big 10 Challenge in a battle of top-10 teams. Because Coach K prefers to play neutral site games in most years rather than visit the home floors of elite non-conference competition, that Duke-Purdue game felt like a rare treat that wouldn’t have happened if the ACC-Big Ten Challenge was never invented. As someone that appreciates the mid-major game, the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, while it lacks a premiere TV deal, is a fantastic way for quality Cinderella candidates to face off in December. The only change I would make is moving the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to open the season in mid-November. This solves the problem of a lackluster, trickling start to the college hoops season and instead the campaign would open with a bang that Michigan State-Duke or Purdue-Virginia Tech provides. Surely those two conferences would welcome the change as well, with basketball-starved fans tuning in to ESPN in even greater droves than in the current setup.