Wednesday, February 6, 2013
College basketball's delay game shifts schedules
Like most sports fans, I don’t like schedules changing and seasons shifted. Just like the making the transition from fall to winter, we get used to the timing of one sport giving way to another.
For many years, Final Four weekend was exciting for more reasons than just basketball. You enjoy the drama of college basketball teams playing in the national semifinals Saturday but also look forward to the Sunday night Major League Baseball opener. That’s followed by baseball’s Opening Day the day of the NCAA championship game.
I was in heaven in 1993 when North Carolina beat Michigan for the national championship on a Monday night at the Superdome. The next day, Cubs pitcher Jose Guzman came one out away from no-hitting the Braves at Wrigley Field in the Cubs' second game of the season. He had to settle for 1-0 one-hitter.
The transition from college basketball to baseball has been a smooth one we all have come to expect. If you enjoy that familiar pattern, get ready for something a bit different this year.
That Sunday night opener and full slate of Opening Day games on Monday will be the week before the Final Four this season. By the time a national champion is crowned late Monday evening, April 8, my Cubs (barring rainouts) will have played seven games. (Make your own joke here about whether the Cubs already will be eliminated by that time.)
Given the chances that my Tar Heels make the Final Four, this isn’t likely to matter. But the Cubs will be in the Final Four city of Atlanta to play the Braves the night before the national semifinals. The teams play again at Turner Field on the same Saturday evening that the national semifinals are played down the road at the Georgia Dome.
When the NCAA championship game is played on April 8, it will be the latest final in tournament history. Previously, the latest was April 7. The championship games in 2008 and 2003 were played on that date.
Baseball’s schedule, despite the playing of the World Baseball Classic in March, hasn’t changed. For some reason, college basketball has shifted.
The TRM, in its fourth year, has been run on the Sunday after March 17. This year, it actually will be run on St. Patrick’s Day.
I’ve run the race every year and there were worries every year that North Carolina would draw a noon start for an NCAA tournament game. The race always has been run the second day of the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament (which I still call the second round, but the NCAA insists on calling the third round).
With a 7 a.m. race start and a 30-minute drive from the finish at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary to my house in Durham (or in the case of the 2010 race, when I lived in Virginia, to my parents’ house in Chatham County), I usually didn’t linger long at the finish area. In 2011, I made it inside my house less than two minute before the start of the Tar Heels’ victory over Washington. It certainly did provide one extra bit of motivation to run a good time!
That’s just the way it is when you are a college basketball fanatic who decides to run a March marathon. I ran the 1997 Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, Va., the day that Dean Smith broke Adolph Rupp’s all-time wins record. With a 9 a.m. race start that day, I ran with a radio (which I normally never do for races) and listened to pregame show and the game,which started at 12:15 p.m., over the last few miles. I dashed from the finish line to my motel to watch the rest of the historic game unfold.
No such issues this year!
Because college basketball has shifted its schedule, race day this year will be Selection Sunday and the only game to worry about would be the ACC Tournament championship at 1 p.m. The way this season is going, who knows if the Tar Heels will play in that game. But if they do, getting home in time won’t be any problem.
This will be the latest ACC Tournament championship game in league history. The championship games of the 2003 and 2008 tournaments were March 16, which was the previous latest.
I generally don’t like when sports schedules shift like this. Since I’ll definitely be able to soak in the post-race atmosphere after this year’s Tobacco Road Marathon, I can live with this change!