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NCAA Basketball Debrief: College Hoops Needs A Hard Opening

Despite the best methodology for crowning a national champion, college basketball stinks when it comes to opening the regular season. A solution to the problem, plus the top and bottom ten moments from the week that was, and a preview of this weekend's slate of games.

I have the utmost respect for a new local business that goes for the hard Grand Opening. You know, some restaurants wait a few weeks, test out the line cooks, make sure the automatic timer on the fryolator is reliable, then bust out the song and dance and drink deals once they’re confident everything is in order.

Just about every sports league starts their season with a hard open. Sure TV has forced pro sports to begin their schedule with just one or two marquee games, but at least you can point to a calendar and ID the first day of the season. College football adheres to this as well.

But college basketball, a sport where people don’t really tune in until after the Lombardi Trophy is handed out, opts for the soft opening each season. Just when does this season start? It's a rhetorical question. I realize the first official game of the season was between Pittsburgh and Rhode Island. The Rams kept it close until the Panthers pulled away late, led by Brad Wannamaker's 24 points. Blah. We all remember it.                              

However, others would insist the season didn't commence until Tuesday at the stroke of midnight when Miami and Memphis tipped-off, the first of 19 games part of a great Marathon Tuesday. Even more extreme, a select few don't even acknowledge college basketball until the Maui Invitational, the longest-running and most notable early season tournament.


Why are we subjected to this? College basketball has the greatest post-season tournament in all of sports, but we have no idea when the season tips-off. Thankfully, ESPN is on to something with this 24-hour-I-dare-you-to-test-your-mettle-and-stay-up-all-day-and-night basketball orgy.

The gimmick works, creating water cooler fodder for the common fan, and top-10 non-conference match-ups that excite diehards. It's the closest thing we have to a defacto opening night, so let's be change agents and push the event up exactly 96-hours, and start the college basketball season on the second Friday of every November.

We already have a "Midnight" theme to play off of, and we all love to have fun on a Friday, especially the college kids. Imagine the antipication during the week. Watching a ticker count down the hours and minutes to the first jump ball of the season. Miami-Memphis, it's not a bad way to start the season, but let's ensure we get two ranked teams for the first game. Continue to follow the format of games held the Pacific Time Zone during the wee hours of the morning, then wake up to some low- and mid-major inter-conference games. Toss in the Connecticut Lady Huskies to prevent the impression this is strictly a misogynist celebration, then cap off this extraordinary day with a marquee game at 8 p.m., the caliber of Ohio State-Florida, for primetime. After that, cool down with an enjoyable game out west, much like San Diego State-Gonzaga and gear up for the official start to the regular season. I don't see anything wrong with this.

If we're required to for scheduling purposes, you could still absorb the opening round 2K Sports Classic (Coaches vs. Cancer) games into the opening day. Very infrequently does the circus or rodeo come reserve college sports arenas, so it's very likely these venues sit empty waiting all autumn, waiting for college basketball. Sure this is wishful thinking, given the tortoise speeds at which the NCAA operates to enact provisions and rule changes, but the game needs something we can all point to and say, "that's how you get me watching college basketball in mid-November."

Just imagine the drinking games twentysometings will challenge themselves to!

And now to the week that was...

10 UP

  • Everyone who stayed up for the entire college basketball marathon – A handful of noble writers and bloggers dared themselves to stay up all day and night, with a CoverItLive to prove it. Per Rob Dauster of, who sat awake for 43 straight hours without a single urge to throw in the towel and hit the sack, he consumed: (2) 16oz Red Bulls, (1) bag of Tostitos, (1) french onion dip, and (2) cans of Chef Boyardee. Not sure how your audience was at 3:37 a.m., but impressive stuff.
  • Stony Brook and Monmouth fans – While the game was highlighted by 31 turnovers and a combined 4-32 from three point land, hats off to Seawolves and of course Hawks fans for making a 6 a.m. game look like 6 p.m. You can get energy from college kids at any hour of the day, but the noise came from all points of the Multipurpose Activity Center, and was well attended.
  • The Ohio State Buckeyes – Led by Jared Sullinger, the most polished player I've seen so far in the season, the Buckeyes scored 55 second-half points en route to a runaway victory against Florida. The Buckeyes along with Illinois are two trendy Big Ten picks, but Thad Matta's club might just actually be the best team in that conference, and looked miles ahead of some other squads who played on Tuesday.
  • A 68-team field, and nothing more - Last spring we all fretted that the NCAA Tournament would swell to 96-teams in the near future. It didn't happen, thankfully, and according to Ohio State AD Gene Smith, don't expect it to change in the near future.
  • Josh Pastner – Making intolerable behavior look uncool. Pastner and his coaching staff bid adieu to freshman Jelan Kendrick after the McDonald's All-American displayed a pattern of bad behavior and immature characteristics all pre-season. Clearly a new regime reigns in Memphis - one that doesn't take chances with kids just because they have a nice baby hook and can fill out a frontcourt rotation.
  • Vanderbilt’s Brad TinsleyQuick: who was the last Commodore to log a triple-double? Trick question! It’s never happened. Tinsley is the first Vanderbilt basketball player to accomplish the feat in the 110-year history of the program, rightfully earning him SEC Player of the Week honors.
  • Illinois’ Brandon PaulWe love dunks. We love videos. Therefore, we love dunks on video.

    • Georgetown – Not necessarily their play, but their willingness to open on the road against Old Dominion. The Hoyas bravely decided not to get some shoe-in victories early and then play this game in December, escaping with a victory in Lynchburg to avenge last season's loss.
    • Rob Stone – Underutilized on the worldwide leader, Stone and sidekick Jay Williams called the 6am Stony Brook-Monmouth game, then traveled 90 miles to Radnor Township for the 6:30pm game between the Villanova and Marist. Nice hustle and nice work from the Stoner behind the mic, we hope he’s on the call all season.
    • #Pitinodoubleentendres – It’s a low blow that served as an open invitation to horrible jokes, but this twitter hashtag was pretty fun to follow during Wednesday’s Butler – Louisville game.

    10 DOWN

    • Virginia Tech's Malcolm DelaneyDoug Gottlieb said it best: [HIGHLIGHT OF MALCOLM DELANEY HAVING POCKET PICKED] "and you see right here why Malcolm Delaney is still in college." The Virginia Tech star coughed up the ball nine times in a loss to Kansas State, capping off a sour start to a season where the Hokies are supposed to contend in the ACC.
    • Butler Bulldog players not named Shelvin Mack - Looking like a Horizon League team overmatched by a Big East squad, the Bulldogs struggled mightily against Louisville with Shelvin Mack providing the only offensive spark. Mack's teammates went a combined 13-43 from the floor, including only six first-half points.
    • KFC YUM! Arena – Damn you, corporate America, and the private funding needed to build modern sporting venues! It may be impossible to get used to the name of Louisville's new arena.
    • When Kyle Singler induces that throw-up taste in your mouth - This self-aggrandizing crap is really making Tyler Hansbrough look bearable.


    • The Shot Fake – Returning to The Little Apple for the first time since bashing Frank Martin's offensive sets, Bob Knight praised any and all players who put up a shot fake during the Virginia Tech - Kansas State game. It gave me a headache, and is forcing me to rethink the shot fake as a necessary means of disrupting defensive rotations.
    • New NCAA Tournament graphics and music - Blasphemy! This won't actually happen, right?
    • Whoever is in charge of deciding the Josh Selby matter – What is the hold-up? College basketball needs its stars (and Selby could quickly become one).
    • Georgia Tech – A dead-team walking from the moment they arrived in Marietta, the Yellow Jackets were stomped on by Kennesaw State on Monday, in the first game in which the Owls hosted a BCS conference team. It was more of a favor by Paul Hewitt to play this game, and the result as about as bad as it could have been for his club.
    • Wofford – And this is harsh but the SoCon favorites, led by the reigning conference player Noah Dahlman of the year came up empty with two "Big Win" opportunities against Minnesota and Clemson. Dahlman is averaging a respectable 16 PPG, and shooting 55 percent from the floor, but we were certain the Terriers would at least give the Tigers a run after the scare fellow SoCon contender College of Charleston inflicted on Maryland.
    • Alcorn St. – This is as bad, and unfortunate as it gets. After going 2-29 last season, the Braves are the worst team in the worst conference in all of college basketball (the SWAC). They don’t even really have a website, already sit at 0-2 for the young season, and "boast" a scoring margin of -52.

    It was tweeted

    When you're having a bad day, turn to the microblogging platform to air your grievances. That's what Enes Kanter did following the official announcement that he was deemed permanently ineligible by the NCAA. He's officially been labeled a "professional," but these tweets certainly show his immaturity.


    The Three-Day Weekend Preview

    It's a three-day weekend in these parts, and while we haven't reached the ditch-the-girlfriend-and-grab-unilateral-control-of-the-TV-remote time of the year, there's still a handful of reasonably enjoyable games to divert your attention away from football:

    Thursday (all times EST)

  • Puerto Rico Tip Off: Davidson vs. West Virginia (ESPNU) 11:30am
  • Puerto Rico Tip Off: Nebraska vs. Vanderbilt (ESPNU) 1:30pm
  • Puerto Rico Tip Off: Hofstra vs. North Carolina (ESPNU) 5pm
  • 2K Sports Classic: Pittsburgh vs. Maryland (ESPN2) 7pm
  • 2K Sports Classic: Illinois vs. Texas (ESPN2) 9pm

    • Puerto Rico Tip Off: Semi-final (ESPNU) 12:30 pm
    • Puerto Rico Tip Off: Semi-final (ESPNU) 8:30 pm
    • 2K Sports Classic: 3rd Place Game (ESPN2) 5pm
    • 2K Sports Classic: Finals (ESPN2) 7pm
    • Kentucky @ Portland (ESPNU) 10:30 pm
    • Wisconsin @ UNLV (Versus) 7pm
    • LSU vs. Memphis (CBS College Sports) 5pm
    • Puerto Rico Tip Off: 3rd Place Game (ESPNU) 5:30pm
    • Puerto Rico Tip Off: Finals (ESPNU) 7:30pm