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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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NCAA Tipoff: College Hoops Facing Uncertain Postseason Future

  • The college basketball season begins on Monday night with a full slate of games.
  • Media rights deals continue to shift the landscape of college sports in general.
Syndication: South Bend Tribune

The college basketball season begins on Monday night with dozens of games for D-I men’s and women’s programs, and the sport is feeling the impact of the shifting amateur sports landscape.

Conference realignment has largely been driven by efforts to maximize media rights revenue around football. But college hoops is a key moneymaker, too, and is creating its own new opportunities for universities and media entities alike.

The men’s NCAA Tournament is locked into a deal with CBS Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery through 2032, but the second-tier NIT event, founded in 1938, could soon be dealing with new competition.

Fox Sports is reportedly exploring creating a new postseason tournament for teams from conference partners that don’t qualify for March Madness. That would include the Big 12, Big East, and Big Ten, potentially beginning as early as next season.

Meanwhile, the women’s NCAA Tournament could be auctioned off to new media partners after this season as women’s sports continues its meteoric rise. ESPN currently broadcasts the event as part of a wider NCAA deal that expires in 2024. LSU’s victory over Iowa in the 2023 championship game drew an average of 9.9 million viewers on ABC — a women’s basketball record.

The potential postseason shifts come as basketball powerhouses like Gonzaga and Connecticut explore moves of their own, having held talks with the Big 12 as conferences continue consolidating in the wake of the Pac-12’s demise.

This year’s Men’s Final Four will take place at State Farm Stadium in Phoenix, and the NCAA has already determined each of the future hosts for the remainder of this decade.

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