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College basketball doesn’t need four games at once

Dec 6, 2012, 6:45 PM EDT

Lance Williams

I love when Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis starts coming up with ideas, especially when it comes to college hoops.

Generally speaking, the sport is better off when he gets to brainstorming.

He got the Spartans out to Germany to take on UConn this season. He’s the brainchild behind the 16 team supertournament being discussed for the 2017 season. He came up with the idea of playing a basketball game on an aircraft carrier, and while that looked pretty dumb in hindsight this year with all three games being cancelled or postponed, last year’s inaugural game would have been legendary and memorable had we let it be.

His newest idea, as illustrated by Raphielle Johnson here, is a bit too much. Hollis wants to play four games, simultaneously, inside the Jerry Dome in Dallas. Seriously. He wants to set up four courts, bring in eight teams, and have them tip off every 15 minutes.

It’s an AAU tournament.

Nevermind the fact that whistles on court one will make players stop on court two. Forget that a substitution buzzer on court three could confuse a player on court four who thought he still had five seconds left on the shot clock. Let’s ignore the fact that we’re turning a major college basketball event into the setting of an AAU tournament at the same time that the media establishment complains about AAU basketball having too much influence on today’s game.

The most important thing to note, however, is that college basketball’s season-opening is as good as any sport this side of the NFL. Look at what we had this year: Kentucky and Maryland opening up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in front of Jay-Z a couple of hours after Michigan State and UConn tipped off on a military base in Germany. At the same time, there would have been three marquee matchups on national television between tournament teams had we realized earlier that playing basketball games outside in November was not a good idea.

That was just the start. Three days later, Marathon Madness went into full effect, with 24 straight hours of hoops being capped off with the Champions Classic, which featured Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State all squaring off. When that ended, we had a day to catch our breath before the preseason tournament swung into full gear. For the next ten days, you were able to find meaningful college basketball games on national networks from noon until well past midnight.

You want to argue that the Maui Invitational was watered down this year and I won’t argue with you, but you can’t tell me that this shot didn’t get you excited for the season to come. The DirecTV Classic might have been a bust this year, but I think that the Legends Classic — complete with UCLA’s collapse and the overtime thriller between Indiana and Georgetown — made up for it. You might not have paid attention to the Old Spice Classic, but I guarantee you knew all about the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis.

And don’t forget about the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

If Hollis wants to pack four games into one day in one stadium, I’m all for it. If he wants to set up courts at either end of the Jerry Dome so that the instant we get back from the commercial break after the final buzzer sounds in one game we can tip off the next, I’m down for that as well.

The more attention that can be driven to college hoops in November, the better. But we don’t need to dilute the product on the floor just to get some publicity when there is already plenty of attention being paid to the good, quality basketball being played at the beginning of the year.

What’s killing college basketball’s regular season isn’t necessarily a lack of good games or marquee matchups or passionate fans.

It’s that the talent continually flees to the NBA leaving a mediocre product on the floor. This issue was helped when coaches were allowed contact with their teams in the summer, meaning that early season games weren’t as sloppy as in year’s past.

But if Mark Hollis truly wants to make the game better and more popular, he’ll figure out a way for us to avoid nationally televised games that end 37-36 or 46-38 instead of worrying about how we can further make college hoops strictly a source of entertainment rather than a sporting event.

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