Whether it's ESPN's 24-hour marathon, the novelty of the aircraft carrier games from 2011 and 2012 or the quadrupleheader in Dallas last season, college basketball has made an attempt to add some pizzazz to its notoriously dull opening week in recent years.
On Monday, the Big Ten and Big East are expected to announce the latest attempt: An eight-game season-opening conference challenge between the two leagues that will annually take place from Tuesday to Friday of the first full week of the college basketball season. The event will first be held at the start of the 2015-16 season.
The format of this event gives it a chance to capture the interest of fans because the games are bunched together within four days of one-another and because both leagues appear committed to making the most compelling matchups possible. Past conference challenges involving the Pac-12 and the Big 12 or the Mountain West and Missouri Valley Conference fizzled because the matchups were often duds and the games were spread out over the course of November and December, making it impossible for fans to follow.
There's reason for the Big Ten and Big East to make sure its top teams are committed to the event because both leagues stand to gain if it's a success. The Big Ten continues to add to the footprint in the Northeast that it attempted to grow by adding Rutgers, while the new Big East further legitimizes itself with a partnership with a league that has been among the best in college basketball in recent years.
If the Big Ten and Big East benefit from a successful challenge, so does a sport that too often has begun with a yawn-inducing opening night.
Whereas other sports generate hype by beginning with either a uniform nation-wide start date or a hand-picked highly anticipated matchup, college basketball has often had none of that. The curtains part on the season with a trickle of largely unappealing games as major-conference programs fearful of taking an early loss typically open with home games against lower-tier foes.
The 24-hour marathon culminating in the Champion's Classic doubleheader has given college basketball a buzz-worthy opening week event the past three years even if it tips off a few days after opening night. The military-themed opening weekend games have also provided some quality games with intriguing backdrops, as could the idea of an annual season-opening quadrupleheader in the Final Four city if organizers can attract more compelling teams than they did last year.
Nonetheless, the idea of a season-opening Big Ten-Big East challenge is a welcome one for college basketball.
Villanova-Michigan? Nebraska-Creighton? Ohio State-Xavier? Wisconsin-Georgetown? With a commitment from both leagues, this event has a chance to work.
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