Maryland is going to be good next year. They're not quite as prohibitive a favorite to win the league as Wisconsin was this time last year, but most outlets think the Terrapins will top the field. ESPN's own way-too-early Top 25 pegged Maryland as a top 5 club. Georgetown is shaping up to have a strong season themselves and are generally regarded as a top 25 team looking ahead to next season. These two teams are going to be playing in one of the very best opening season games we've seen in recent memory as part of the inaugural Gavitt Tip-Off Games. Oh and Maryland and Georgetown are renewing a local rivalry that has been lying dormant for over 20 years, since 1993. By any account, this is a huge game that could ignite a series of meaningful regular season contests between the schools in the years to come.
ESPN, who more than likely played a major hand in scheduling exactly when these games would take place, has decided to air this game on ESPN 2 halfway through the Champions' Classic pitting the opening of Maryland v. Georgetown against the conclusion of Kentucky v. Duke and the beginning of Kansas v. Michigan State. If the contest between the Wildcats and the Blue Devils is a good one and ends up tight down the stretch, it'll naturally cannibalize much of the viewership that might have otherwise been really excited to see Maryland play Georgetown. The Champions' Classic is and will continue to be a great event for some time now, and they've earned their place in prime-time over the years by being a stellar draw for ESPN. They're not getting a fair shake in this either, as Michigan State and Kansas could see their own viewership compromised by a good, close game between Maryland and Georgetown.
It seems like a small quibble, sure, but looking at the schedule it seems that this problem could've easily been avoided. None of the other teams featured on ESPN2 have competing basketball games on ESPN. None of the teams besides those involved in the Champions' Classic are playing against major matchups, or any college basketball matchups at all, on ESPN2. While having 2 top 25 games on at once does occur at times throughout college basketball's regular season the non-conference slate has never been littered with these matchups. They're risky for coaches to schedule games as tough as those in the Champions' Classic. It's risky for coaches to commit to games as tough as the one that Mark Turgeon did when the Terrapins joined the Gavitt Tipoff Games. These teams should be rewarded with ample coverage during a time of year when college basketball fans wade through games pitting major collegiate powers against pushovers like Mississippi Valley State, Northern Kentucky, or the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Yes, occasionally miracles happen but for the most part these games are bad and there are too many of them - they don't challenge the teams that participate and they aren't entertaining for general audiences.
ESPN isn't going to stem the tide of college coaches scheduling more challenging games early on in the season but they sure could be doing more to encourage it.