With the sad truth that interest in college basketball's regular season is waning, the Worldwide Leader, our fearless leader, continues to drum up eye-catching scheduling in an attempt to engage the common fan pre-March Madness. A 24-hour hoops marathon, BracketBuster Weekend, announcer swaps (because you can never get enough Jeff Van Gundy!), we've seen them all in recent years, and all have been generally impressive and successful.
ESPN's latest trick is a Big Monday quadruple-header on Martin Luther King Day, as they hope to capture the 25-54 male demographic that's likely to be slouching around the couch all afternoon with little do to.
The four lucky teams punching the clock for work on the January 17th holiday? That would be Villanova @ UConn at 3:30; Kansas State @ Missouri at 5:30; Syracuse @ Pittsburgh at 7:30; and a night cap from Waco as Kansas faces Baylor at 9:30. All times are Eastern, and all games are highly appealing.
We love this scheduling move, which had sort of been hinted back in July but not quite confirmed until late last week following the release of the Big East's schedule. Upon tip-off, all four teams will have wrapped up their non-conference games and be 25 percent clear of their conference schedule, giving us ample stats and tape to laud their strengths and criticize their deficiencies. We will still be weeks away from discussing seeding for the NCAA Tournament, but you can expect that each of these match-ups becomes a talking point well in to February. Sans the Huskies, all of these teams should be nationally ranked and gunning for a top four protected regional seed.
Just off the top of my head, I am salivating at the thought of a Corey Fisher-Kemba Walker match-up, a look at Missouri's freshman recruits, arguably the toughest road game of the Orange's season, and the explosive senior-freshman duo of LaceDarius Dunn and Perry Jones.
Hats off to ESPN for tying up my schedule for the final day of this much-anticipated long weekend.