Author's note: If you like what you read here, check out my blog Ballin' is a Habit.
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Pac 10-Big XII Series. And now we have the SEC-Big East Invitational. I love them. I think these competitions are great for basketball. Think about it. If these didn't exist, would we see as many great games during December, college basketball's down time, as we currently do?
This year we get Duke-Purdue, UNC-Michigan State, Texas-UCLA, USC-Oklahoma, even games with so-so teams like Wisconsin-Virginia Tech or Penn State-Georgia Tech end up turning into classics on national TV during primetime.
Maybe I am a just too much of a junkie, but anytime you can get games on ESPN, it is a good thing for the sport.
Fans get excited for the games. Players get amped up for them. The families and friends of players at a school like Penn State or Virginia, who rarely make it on ESPN these days, get a chance to see their loved ones on national television in a game called by one of the people they hear talking about the sport every night. The same goes for the pre-season tournaments like the Maui and the Old Spice. It is a great thing for the sport.
So my question is, how come ESPN hasn't capitalized on this yet? I doubt that it is more than a few years away already, but how come the Pac 10-Big XII and SEC-Big East competitions haven't grown to the size of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge? Again, it may just be because I am a college hoops fanatic, but think about how great this could be.
What sports are on during the week right now? NBA games, but no one cares about the NBA until the last month of the season and the playoffs. NHL games, but no one cares about the NHL ever.
You have the mid-major college football games, but most of those are done by the week after Thanksgiving. NFL plays games on Monday and Thursday nights, but the Thursday night games are on the NFL Network and the Monday night games have been mediocre at best this year.
ESPN is promoting this as Jimmy V week, and it runs from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9, culminating in the Jimmy V Classic on the 9th. Why half-ass it? Here is my proposition (and all you ESPN folks, remember where you heard it first). Starting the Monday after Feast Week (i.e. the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend), start Jimmy V Week.
Instead of just having a few games for the Pac 10-Big XII and the SEC-Big East, turn those into league wide competitions a la the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. Stagger them so that there are two marquee games on every night of the week, Monday-Friday, on ESPN and two more games a night on both ESPN2 and ESPN U.
Six games a night over five nights is 30 games. As there will still be a few left over (by my calculations, with the size of each league there are 33 total games—11 in the ACC-Big 10, 12 in the SEC-Big East, 10 in the Pac 10-Big XII), play them on Saturday afternoon (ESPN has basketball games on this Saturday as it is - Duke-Michigan and Miami FL-Kentucky).
Think about how exciting that would be. Think about the number of great games. Think about how much ESPN could promote that. Take this year as an example. Friday night, ESPN is airing Portland against Boston and ESPN 2 has the MAC football championship (Ball State against Buffalo). Again, it could be just me, but wouldn't you rather watch a game like UConn-Tennesee or Arizona State-Baylor?
Then, on the following Monday and/or Tuesday, hold the Jimmy V Classic. I know that ESPN would make money over hand and foot if this were to be implemented, but also think about how much money the V Foundation would make.
You could even take it a step further. The leagues with the two best records in their respective challenges will go head-to-head the next year. Third will play fourth, and fifth will play sixth. The way that two conferences are compared these days are you set up hypothetical match-ups between the best, the second best, etc. teams in each of the conferences, and see who ends up with a better record. So by having the two best conferences from the previous year square off, isn't that an easy way to settle the "who is the best conference debate"?
Yea, there are some logistical issues with that. For one, if the two best conferences play, then they are both likely to end up with a mediocre record that year, lowering their rank for the next season's competition. Also, if league's on opposite coasts (i.e. the Big East and the Pac 10) were to end up playing each other, travel could be come a big problem. Do you really want to fly a team from New York to California for one game during the week? Not only would it wreak havoc on the kids internal clocks, but it would be a big hinderance in class and study schedules with finals coming.
So it is not perfect yet, but tell me that this wouldn't be exciting for everyone associated with the sport.