College football and the NFL will continue to dominate the headlines, sure. The NBA will likely get more eyeballs, because folks like high-quality hoops. However, there are many reasons why people should pay attention to the early portion of the college basketball season.
Don’t get me wrong. College basketball has a lot of things going against it. Some of it is its own actual doing. Others happen to be things the sport can’t fix because it is something that can’t literally be done. However, one of its best attributes is often overlooked, since it gets lost in the “other sports” shoved down our throats like a candy corn no one actually wants to eat after Halloween.
Simply put: College basketball opens with a bang.
This is not to say other sports don’t, but the lengths to which college basketball goes to put on a show early in the non-conference schedule is amazing. With a plethora of good-to-great season-opening tournaments such as the Maui Invitational and the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, there’s a something for everyone.
ESPN will happily provide 24 hours of continuous basketball to unofficially start the season. While some of these games (the ones in the early-morning hours on Tuesday, Nov. 17) will be less appealing than the early-season tournaments on the slate, it is still a tremendous way to prepare fans for the craziness which will play out over the next few months. Plus, given the types of teams taking advantage of matinee, late-afternoon, prime-time, and bar-is-closing time slots, the 24-hour marathon gives every fan a chance to see off-the-radar programs.
Why is this all so important? Because true urgency exists in college basketball, the type which is rivaled only by college football.
Outside of the very few true perennial terminators of the sport — Kentucky, Duke, etc. — all fan bases need to view every game their favorite teams play. Each game will hold vital importance in the pursuit of a March Madness Dance card.
It truly can’t be stated enough: That early-season game pitting your team, projected to be on the bubble and saddled with a few key lineup questions, against a likely NCAA team on a neutral floor, means something. Hell, it means a lot — especially when folks are determining which bubbles are going to be burst when a certain Sunday in March rolls around.
While winning that game in mid-November may mean very little in the grand scope of things, avoiding the loss means the world. Resumes tend to look wretched whenever teams lose to (fictional) universities with a history as dark as someone deciding to wear blackface on Halloween.
The early portion of the season is also vital in introducing fans to the new stars of the sport. Generally, the sport’s top players — and future NBA lottery picks — are freshmen. Unless you traveled to a ton of grassroots basketball games, have an unhealthy love of traveling to see high school hoops, or are an actual paid member of someone’s scouting service, you have only heard of the few high-impact freshmen which are about to alter the landscape of the upcoming season.
Those are merely some of the many reasons paying attention to college basketball early in the season is important. Chris Dobbertean, bracketologist to the stars, has a post out which lets you know of every single early-season tournament, and while not all may appeal to your senses, there is a little bit of something for everyone.
Let’s reiterate — and revel in — the abundance of urgency in the first weeks of a college basketball season. This is why fans should tune in to college basketball when November 13 hits. For those who will say in December that their team “is already out of it,” it becomes imperative to enjoy the season before it turns sour. Even for those who experience heartbreak, early November is the time to enjoy the feast before your stomach turns.
I won’t go as far as saying college basketball is more important than other major sports. I won’t say the sport’s level of urgency is greater than a very short college football season. However, with the world being our oyster and with MLB finishing up, 11-billion games (approximately) still left in the NBA season, a dozen more in the NFL, and college football being mostly consumed on Saturdays, restless eyes shouldn’t wait until March to appreciate the glory which is college basketball.
Ambassadors of college basketball, the NCAA, and those who wish to make the sport into the largest thing in the world, I await my check in the mail.