Thursday, May 27, 2010

Great Alaska Shootout announces their field

It wasn't that long ago that the Great Alaska Shootout and the Maui Invitational were the two early season tournaments that everyone cared about.

Kentucky won it in 1996, a season in which they made a run to the national title game. Duke suffered their only regular season loss to Cincinnati in 1998 in the Shootout's title game. Dwyane Wade and Marquette were champs in 2001, just a year before they made a run to the Final Four.

This year, the Shootout will be lucky if they host one team that even makes the field of 68.

Yesterday, tournament organizers announced the Great Alaska Shootout's field of eight teams. Arizona State and St. John's headline the event, with Drake, Houston Baptist, Ball State, Weber State, and Southern Utah joining the host, Alaska-Anchorage, as the other six teams.

Not exactly a premiere event.

How exactly does an event go from one of the best early season tournaments to a consolation prize in less than a decade?

It was all the result of a rule change back in 2006. As we wrote back in November:

Two rule changes - the NCAA doing away with the limitation of two multi-team events in four seasons and the decision to reduce the red tape involved with hosting a tournament - have had a huge effect on the structure of college hoops in November. Essentially, it allowed ESPN to operate their own tournaments instead of having to purchase the rights to televising events such as the Maui Invitational and the Great Alaska Shootout.

Why do you think tournaments like last weekend's 76 and Old Spice Classics had all 12 games televised on ESPN? And why do you think they were conveniently scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, leaving open the lucrative college football Saturday?
Now, I'm not going to go into massive detail here (we already did right here), but as much as I hate seeing the Great Alaska Shootout go by the wayside, the excitement that arises with the plethora of games shown on ESPN during Feast Week is a good thing for college basketball. Early season college basketball is an after thought as the football season comes to a close. Anything that can bring the sport to the forefront when people aren't usually paying attention to it is hardly a negative.

Business is business, and once you cut through all the legal mumbo jumbo, the bottom line for any business is the bottom line -- making money, and making as much of it as possible. ESPN has taken advantage of a rule and capitalized on it. While I feel for the organizers of the Great Alaska Shootout, I find it difficult to view ESPN in a negative light.

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