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Morning Power Bar: Big Ten Leaving ESPN; Updated Top 25 Rankings; Media Rights

We look at this week in college basketball.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

This is a weekly column for BTPowerhouse that will cover a variety of Big Ten topics that might not deserve a detailed breakdown, but deserve mention. It will be similar to a news roundup with more thoughts and analysis.

So, let’s jump into our Morning Power Bar.

1. Big Ten TV deal (and expansion) remains a work in progress.

Since the additions of UCLA and USC, speculation has been rampant regarding the Big Ten and what moves the conference might make in the coming weeks and months. Well, it looks like a lot of that will be on hold for the time being, as the league works on negotiating its next media rights contract.

As noted below, it looks like most of the Big Ten’s rights will be moving to FOX, CBS, and NBC. However, we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out. Either way, don’t expect much movement until that’s resolved.

2. ESPN updates their offseason top 25 rankings.

Over the last few years, the “way too early” offseason rankings have taken over many publications. They’re a fun exercise, but rarely accurate, especially with the movement in today’s college landscape. There’s simply too much movement in the offseason these days to believe you can accurately predict the next season just a few days out.

However, with a few months under our belt, things are relatively settled. The transfers have moved, the NBA departures have left, and the walk-ons have arrived. We’re now starting to get our first look at how things will shake out next season.

This was one of the many reasons ESPN recently updated their top 25 offseason rankings. Interestingly, the Big Ten hardly left a mark on the rankings, landing only two teams in the top 25 with Indiana at 15th and Illinois at 25th. Even with Michigan in the next five teams receiving consideration, that’s a pretty unimpressive performance for the Big Ten, who has boasted itself as the best conference in college basketball in recent years.

We’ll see if these rankings end up being accurate, but this certainly has to be a concerning sign for fans. While the Big Ten has often lacked elite teams in recent years, having only two teams in the top 25 would be a major setback. Fans will have to hope this is inaccurate.

3. Big Ten leaving ESPN.

As noted above, the Big Ten continues to negotiate its next media rights deal and reports about what might be included are starting to surface. John Ourand recently reported a significant development on the deal, implying that ESPN might not carry any Big Ten games for the first time in decades.

Perspective on these types of deals differs considerably. However, I’ve always been a believer that few things are more important than narratives and exposure in college sports. That might sound like a stretch, but it’s the nature of the sport. When you seed and decide postseason appearances based on subjective measurements, narratives and media perception are immensely important.

It’s also why this deal looks concerning.

The Big Ten is foregoing the significant media attention that comes with ESPN broadcasts for an extra few bucks from FOX, NBC, and CBS. Perhaps that works out better in the long run, but it’s hard to see right now.


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