What's up Tulsa? It's eerily calm on the sports front these days. The next big event on the horizon is March 16--the day the NCAA unveils the March Madness bracket. This is followed by America's least productive workday of the year.
This is an incredible deluge of basketball excitement. Unfortunately, it's also one of the main reasons college basketball has been placed on the resuscitation machine.
That's right. College basketball is dying a slow, painful death. The regular season has been rendered a pointless exercise. The 65 team tournament is an accomplice to this murder. It is not alone.
Not to bring up college football's yearly BCS versus Playoff fiasco but I'm going to use it in my argument. College football's regular season is enthralling.
One loss could be the difference between a national championship and a trip to the Peach Bowl. College basketball's regular season has never been a 'one loss and you're done' sport.
However, watching BCS conferences place .500 teams in the Big Dance is embarrassing. Yes, the first two rounds of the Big Dance are unequivocally the best four days of sports on television bar none. Too bad it's at the expense of the previous four months of college basketball. Often times, the Final Four is about as anticlimactic as the end of The Sopranos.
College basketball's regular season also suffers from the beating it takes from the NFL. America's unquestionable favorite sport stretches until the first week in February. Fans, media and time slots are all dedicated to the Super Bowl and not preseason basketball in Hawaii.
On a more local note, college football finishes up the first week of January unless you're an OSU fan, in which case it ends prior to the New Year.
Oklahoma's fans (the state, not the school) pour their heart and soul into the gridiron. It takes a little recovery time before the fans can dive into another sport head first.
By mid-January, college basketball teams have a body of work. We can judge them by record and decide whether or not to follow them closely or just pass on investing ourselves into a lost cause.
Another issue with regular season college basketball? It's too regional. NFL, college football, NASCAR and MMA appeal to the nation on a broad basis. We care about teams, cars or fighters outside of our regional area.
We can't say the same about college basketball. We'll follow the Big 12. We check out box scores from C-USA. Unless Duke and UNC are playing, we don't care about the ACC. Guess what, fans in North Carolina don't care about OU versus Texas.
A hidden issue I have yet to hear mentioned is what we'll label the Durant/Oden corollary. The NBA set the minimum age limit on NBA entrance to 19 years of age.
This was to keep kids like Dwight Howard and LeBron James from jumping straight from high school to the NBA. This was going to be a real boon to the college game. It was...for a year.
America was captivated by Kevin Durant and Greg Oden last year. They were affable, NBA-ready kids cast in the spotlight. They led their teams to the forefront of college basketball. We attached ourselves to them as if we had a stake in the outcome.
One and done. A year later, they are in the NBA. A lot was emotionally invested into these two kids. It was abruptly taken away. This year it's Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose.
I think the fans have learned their lesson. We're weary of the situation. Why get suckered in again?
Why follow a phenom like Beasley if you know he's headed for the greenist of green pastures next year. Will we watch Kansas State when they are on TV? Yes. Will we care if they win or lose? Sure...if we live in Manhattan.
Plan for Fans
Another underrated facet to the decline in fandomship is the NBA. The National Basketball Association is going through a renaissance of sorts.
The games are high scoring, fast paced, quality affairs. Even with trades, you can become attached to certain players on your favorite team without worrying about him bolting in a year.
Instead of a league revolving around one player ala the Michael Jordan era, there are numerous superstars carrying the torch.
The NBA gets a bad rap and sometimes deservedly so. However, the guys leading the way in today's NBA are solid citizens. Most importantly, they are likable characters.
Don't take this as my dislike for college basketball. It's more of a concern for the state of the game. One of the best sporting events I've attended in recent years was the Memphis game at the Reynolds Center earlier this year. Did TU lose a big game? Yes. The fans rocked the roof. Everyone rallied around the home team.
Unfortunately, the majority of America did not. At least not outside of C-USA and the local region.
Can this be fixed? Anything is possible. My idea is definitely not shared by most. The conventional wisdom is to expand the NCAA tournament. If 65 teams are good, then 128 are better.
I say drop the entrants to 48. Each pod or regional would pit four games followed by a match-up against a power team that earned a bye. The rest of the bracket would flow the same. This adds intrigue to a few more regular season contests that is severely lacking in today's game.
Will this happen? Absolutely not. Why? Money baby, it's all about the cheddar.
Here's to hoping I'm wrong and college basketball is just in a lull. I'd hate to see someone pull the plug.
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