The college basketball season opened this weekend–in some places.
Admittedly, I am not a fan of November basketball. Too early, too many games that will quickly be forgotten. But I understand the need to feed the beast of the World Wide Leader and the rest of the always hungry television eye in terms of programming.
So let the games begin at places like Chapel Hill, Lexington, Durham and even places where new arenas are opening such as the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
But let’s put an end to the Carrier Game concept which was carried from one game last season to a weekend of games on both coasts this year.
College basketball is a good enough game to stand on its own merits. If ESPN wants to make it a basketball marathon, such as the one being held across the country on Tuesday, fine. Let kids play at 6 in the morning or midnight.
No big deal.
But staging games on aircraft carriers? Enough. And while ESPN switched its military connection to a game at base in Germany, played in a hangar, the concept remains.
Three games were scheduled this season. Only one was actually played–Sunday’s game between Syracuse and San Diego State on the Midway a decommissioned carrier anchored off the coast in San Diego. And that game was played in swirling winds.
Two other games on the East coast, between Marquette and Ohio State on the Yorktown and between Georgetown and Florida on the U.S.S. Batann didn’t fare as well. The Marquette-Ohio State game was cancelled because of the threat of rain and the Georgetown-Florida game was called at halftime because of condensation on the court.
These weren’t chump teams, playing pick up basketball. All the teams involved were Top 25 caliber. Ohio State, Florida and Syracuse have Final Four potential.
And while the games played in November will quickly be forgotten by most of the general public, they will be recorded by the computers and be part of the all-important RPI figures which are used as a tool to determine not only spots in the NCAA basketball tournament, but seeding.
With that in mind, the games are too important to have an outcome determined by someone slipping on a wet court or a gust of wind blowing a potential game-winning shot off course.
Far fetched? Probably. But why take the chance? ESPN has made college basketball a billion dollar industry. Everyone recognizes that and accepts it. It is the reason why games are played at all times and almost every night of the week.
It is the reason college football has games on every day and night of the week. It is the reason games are played at inconvenient times for both the fans and the players involved.
But when the whistle blows, the integrity of the game remains (we hope). Playing pick up games in a shirts and skins format, winner out type of basketball played in heat, and rain and fog and cold, and any other element you care to add to the mix, is part of the fabric of basketball in the off-season.
The game has become more sophisticated and controlled, with almost everything organized from the time kids can dribble a basketball. So be it.
By the time the game reaches the major college basketball level, those elements are long gone. At places like Kentucky, where John Calipari is again rebuilding a national championship contender, every play is scrutinized in practice.
Kentucky played Maryland in Brooklyn over the weekend, with the Wildcats posting a narrow victory in what will be a learning experience for both teams.
The two teams might see other again in an NCAA tournament game in March which will have far more meaning.
But what would have happened if Ohio State guard Aaron Craft had slipped on a wet court on a Carrier game and torn up his knee and been lost for the season.
Yes, I know injuries are part of the game and they can happen anywhere. But why add to the risk factor?
Let the games continue. Let the story lines develop the way they are supposed to develop–naturally. And let television record every bit of what happens and as much as the coaches and administrators allow.
But let the games be held on real basketball courts in real buildings that are no only user-friendly, but relatively safe.
If you want to have a military tie-in, do it the way that UConn and Michigan State did in Germany on Friday. Play the game on a military base in a hangar or building where the elements can be controlled.
Let the games be the games and not part of some gimmick.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.