Saturday, April 03, 2010

Predictions 1 and 1a

In the last NCAA tournament I'll likely ever care about, chalk would seem to be the way to go. Michigan State, which lest we forget was ranked in the top five in the country back when the Jets were a big deal, should advance to play Duke in the final. Look for humorous reaction shots of Bob Huggins when the refs start sending his West Virginia kids to the bench for crimes such as breathing hard under the boards. I also like Michigan State to win the whole cheese Monday night.

There's a crumpled bracket somewhere under my desk that tells us no one should put much stock in the preceding paragraph. Here's a call in which I have much more faith. When (and it sure seems like a done deal), the NCAA expands the tournament field to 96 teams next year, it will be a fiasco, not just artistically, as everyone already knows, but eventually financially.

It's a simple matter of supply and demand. There is, outside of ESPN, coaches, and university presidents, no demand for more tournament games in March. Expanding the supply of such games, therefore, isn't going to work.

Greed makes people stupid, and they don't come much greedier than the well-dressed, pretentious panhandlers who lead America's institutions of higher learning. These bigdomes will have their comeuppance, however, in the short amount of time it takes for America to learn how hard it is to run an office pool about a 96-team tournament. I know the NCAA isn't allowed to admit that gambling is why the tournament is so popular (college basketball regular season TV ratings are microscopic, another example of supply outstripping demand), but it is. Remove the brackets, and you remove much, maybe most, of your audience.

One more thing. Expanding the tourney requires the NCAA to screw long-time broadcasting partner CBS. Anybody here think CBS won't try to get even? Besides gambling, the other astonishing marketing advantage the tournament has is that it has the month of March pretty much to itself as a big-time sports events. The NHL and NBA are in the part of the regular season where the players are as bored as the rest of us. Spring training, is, well, practice. NASCAR is once a week.

Schedules are not immutable. If the tournament goes to ESPN, I know what I'd do if I were CBS. The NFL has already moved the draft to prime time. For extra dough, I'm sure the league would move it up a month and schedule it for prime time opposite the Final Four.


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