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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Fox Adds to Jumbled College Hoops Postseason With New Tournament

  • The newly formed event will be played in Las Vegas in the midst of March Madness.
  • The effort arrives at arguably the weakest point in the NIT’s long history.
Journal Sentinel

The madness of March might take on a whole new meaning this time next year.

The already-muddled landscape for postseason college basketball is gaining another new entrant as Fox Sports and AEG have finalized plans to introduce the College Basketball Crown, a new 16-team tournament that will begin in 2025 in Las Vegas.

The event, many months in active development, will feature teams that do not qualify for March Madness. The Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East each will have two guaranteed slots for their member schools, with the bracket then filled out with other at-large participants. Games will be played between March 31 and April 6 next year at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and T-Mobile Arena, and they will be aired exclusively on Fox and FS1. The timing is between the Elite Eight and the championship game of the men’s March Madness. 

The latest effort specifically extends the network’s relationships with the Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East—three conferences for which Fox already holds multiyear rights deals. It also gives Fox an opportunity to be involved in postseason college basketball as men’s March Madness rights are held by CBS and Warner Bros. Discovery through 2032, while ESPN recently renewed rights for the women’s March Madness through the same season.

Fox Sports branded the new tournament a move to “evolve and elevate the sport.”

The tournament is also a blow to the National Invitation Tournament, which has existed since 1938, is owned and operated by the NCAA, and is aired by ESPN. But the NIT is arguably now at its weakest condition in its long history, as 17 schools were said to have declined invitations to the event for various reasons. Not only does the NIT have far less prestige than March Madness, but the event also conflicted with the opening of the transfer portal, and some schools chose to focus on developing their rosters for next season. 

Without the lineage of the NIT or the obvious allure of March Madness, the College Basketball Crown faces an obvious challenge to find a foothold among fans. Other competing events, such as the College Basketball Invitational, hold far less status among fans and schools, and the CBI also requires an entry fee to participate. 

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