College Basketball Officially Begins Tonight

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345 NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams begin their journey on the road they hope will culminate at the Final Four, as official practices will be conducted all across the country this weekend.

Many teams and their fans will gather across the country in arenas late Friday night to celebrate Midnight Madness, the annual celebration that marks the start to the season.  Practices are permitted to begin after 5 p.m. Friday.

A Snoop Dogg Concert accompanies Northwestern’s event this evening.

ESPNU will televise its Midnight Madness special featuring extensive whip-around coverage from top college basketball programs around the nation Friday at 9 p.m. ET.  Coverage will focus on several men’s programs including defending national champion Duke, as well as Kentucky, Memphis, Gonzaga, Kansas State and St. John’s. (No doubt because former ESPN personality Steve Lavin is now leading the program).

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What’s most interesting about college hoops is how much it’s Q Rating as a sport increases during this season. No other sport has such a wide level of disinterest in the beginning (and again that really bothers me. I’m not advocating this apathy- just pointing it out) but then creates such a tremendous buzz at the end. Everyone loves March Madness, but not everyone cares in November, although they should.

Key non-conference games in November include Ohio State-Florida, Texas-Illinois, Kansas State-Gonzaga, Kansas-Arizona, Missouri-Georgetown and Tennessee-Pittsburgh. Blockbuster tilts continue in December with matchups such as Duke-Butler, Syracuse-Michigan State, Kentucky-North Carolina, Washington-Texas A&M and Temple-Villanova.

In addition to the dozens of individual non-conference games, there will be several multi-team events that promise to feature matchups between the nation’s top programs. The NCAA has historically identified these events as ideal opportunities to use experimental rules, and this year is no exception.

In May, the Men’s Basketball Rules Committee approved the experimental use of an expanded arc at two feet from the center of the basket.  This identifies an area on the floor where a secondary defender is not able to establish legal guarding position. The committee felt the rule change made last year reduced the number of collisions at the goal; this year’s experimental rule calls for the area to be slightly expanded.

The men’s championship also enters a new era, with the announcement earlier this year that the tournament field will expand to 68 teams beginning with the 2011 championship. Under the new format, there will be four first-round games, to be played in Dayton March 15 and 16 and known as the First Four.

It will feature two games involving teams playing for the right to advance as No. 16 seeds that will play top-seeded teams in the second round, and two other games featuring the final four at-large teams selected to the field.  Second- and third-round games will be played March 17-20.  Host cities are Denver, Colorado; Tampa, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; Washington D.C.; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Regional sites will conduct games March 24-27 and include Anaheim, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; Newark, New Jersey; and San Antonio, Texas.  The 2011 Men’s Final Four will be held April 2 and 4 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

The NCAA reached a deal in April with Turner Sports and CBS worth $10.8 billion over 14 years for the television, Internet and wireless rights to the tournament.  As part of the agreement, all 67 games of the championship will be shown live across four national networks—CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV.  Previously, fewer than 10 tournament games were guaranteed to have a full national audience.

The midnight madness tradition started nearly 40 years ago when Lefty Driesell had his University of Maryland team go for a run on the campus’ track minutes after midnight on the first day of allowable practices.  Approximately 3,000 fans attended the event and it became a tradition that spread across the country and now features a variety of activities to entertain thousands of fans.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He is also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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Comments

  1. Hey, David Kay, wanna chat on here during Midnight Madness.

  2. Brian-

    Sorry, I was working/driving out of town for a wedding last night… but hopefully you already read my Wichita State season preview..

    http://thesportsbank.wpengine.com/college-bball/99-in-99-46-wichita-state-shockers/

  3. I did! Thanks for putting them at # 46 in the country!

  4. Gail Noia says:

    hi I read your blog every the time, you have some wonderful things to say. My reviewers would like your style, do you think you could be a invitee blogger for me?

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