It’s the first week of March and most of the NCAA Division I conferences are just now finishing up their regular seasons.
March Madness is taking forever to get here.
This week’s college basketball results have been all about where teams land for seeding purposes in their respective conference tournaments. Higher seeding is important for some schools because they can get a bye or double-bye and receive more rest.
But does any of this conference tournament stuff really matter? Who cares about seeding and double-byes?
Conference tournaments have outlived their resourcefulness in most instances. It is only the rarest of rare occasions that a conference tournament produces a longshot winner and that winner goes on to do big things in the real tournament.
Sports consumers know when it’s worth watching. The blood of the typical sports fan doesn’t start to get revved up until the real tournament starts and all those games are being played as a ‘one and done.’
The Sunday Selection Show capping all of the conference tournaments and presenting the tourney brackets is on March 11th. The actual NCAA tournament with the play-in games or what is now considered the ‘first four’ is on March 13th and 14th.
But for the fans who consider the tournament to be really engaged as they have come to know it, Thursday, March 15th, is the real first day of March Madness.
Sixteen games staggered throughout the day with sometimes thrilling, silly, unlikely underdogs beating heavyweight favorites or almost beating them. And, then, the chance to see it all over again on Friday with another 16 games, followed by 16 more combined on Saturday and Sunday.
Why are sports fans made to wait until the middle of March for the real tournament to get rolling and the Final in April? This has become a pattern in sports.
The Final Four getting extended until April is similar to the Super Bowl being played in February. The sports calendar is about positioning American traditions in order to milk the marketing dollars.
In some cases, the calendar produces unusual scenarios and new nicknames are formed.
The World Series getting pushed farther back on the calendar has given Derek Jeter a nickname that nobody, including Reggie Jackson, could have envisioned 20 years ago: ‘Mr. November.’
Every year it seems there is a drain on fans for getting the ‘Madness’ started. The NCAA wants the general public sports fan to buy into the conference tournaments as part of the ‘Madness.’
This is where there is a bone to be picked, though many would disagree.
If the real tournament wasn’t going to start in the first week of March this year, than at least the conference tournaments could have started this week so that the real tournament is starting by at least March 8th.
Everything in spectator sports is about the ebb and flow of the sports consumers’ perceptions and expectations. If media ratings are down, then, maybe change is in order. If ratings remain steady, the calendar has adjusted itself and the tournament has its place to continue on until ratings indicate otherwise.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com