Tag Archive for 'basketball'

expanding march madness

We’re just a few days away from my favorite sports days of the year—the first round of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, more commonly called March Madness. Or The Big Dance. Those are the days when we see the big upsets, Cinderella trying to knock off Goliath (if I may mix my sports metaphors). The tournament is entertaining after that, but nothing compares to the frenzy of the first round. (Sure, if your favorite team is fighting for a title, I’m sure the later rounds are better, but the neutral fan is hungry for the cinderella stories, not the title contenders).

Over the decades the tournament gradually expanded; at first, only conference champions were allowed into the tourney. In 1975 at-large teams were added, and the tournament grew to 32 teams, then 40, then 48, and eventually 64. Now it’s at 65 with a largely irrelevant play-in game. 64 was perfect. No byes, no play-in games, just a perfectly balanced bracket. A few years ago they added a 65th team. The rationale at the time was that the NCAA had just gotten another conference (and thus another automatic bid), so expanding the tournament by one would keep the same number of at-large teams. Which is okay, I suppose. All it does is put an extra at-large team somewhere around the 11-12 seeds and bump the champions of the tiny conferences down a spot, putting the worst of them into the play-in game.

Now some people are calling for an expansion of the field to 96 teams. There are a number of arguments in favor of this, some better than others. The number one reason it will likely happen sooner or later is money. The tournament is the NCAA’s cash cow. In 1999, CBS signed an 11-year, $6 billion contract extension with the NCAA. That’s a lot of cash. And with that contract ending soon (2013), and the NCAA having an opt-out clause after this season, they may very well feel that more games (i.e. more chances for networks to sell commercials) could increase their revenues. There’s the possibility of a bidding war between CBS and ESPN, so it’d make sense to expand now instead of in the middle of a contract. Continue reading ‘expanding march madness’

that Hornets games are not on DirecTV

First of all, let me admit that I’m a casual, bandwagon Hornets fan. When I was a kid, my favorite team was the Orlando Magic (because of Shaq), and after he went from Orlando to Los Angeles most of my interest in the NBA faded. Sure, I’d watch a game here or there, but I mostly preferred the college game. So much of the NBA play was dominated by isolation plays for the stars, as opposed to the ball movement of the college game. The refs let stars get away with traveling and carrying. The 24-second play clock led to an uninteresting, back-and-forth style of play, and outlawing zones struck me as taking away a big part of the game. I remembered when I was little and we almost nabbed the Timberwolves; the Times-Picayune even ran a headline that said “Got ‘em!” above a Timberwolves jersey. This was pretty exciting, aside from the minor detail that we did not, in fact, get the Timberwolves.

When the Hornets came, I wasn’t all that excited at first. I’d watch the occasional game on TV, but didn’t pay too much attention. Then in 2003 I moved to a new house and got DirecTV, which didn’t have (and still doesn’t have) Cox Sports TV, so I couldn’t watch Hornets games aside from the occasional nationally televised game. But then the Hornets got Chris Paul and returned to New Orleans full-time after a Katrina-induced exile to Oklahoma City. And they started winning. I had to been to a Hornets game once before (2004, maybe?) when my dad got some tickets from a work colleague. But I didn’t go again until I decided to go in March 2008, when the red-hot Hornets were fighting for the #1 spot in the Western Conference. They were playing the Bulls and entered the 4th quarter down by nine, but came back to win by eleven. Chris Paul had 37 points and 13 assists. I didn’t start attending every home game or anything like that, but clearly the NBA and the Hornets had some appeal. Continue reading ‘that Hornets games are not on DirecTV’