Typically, for reasons comprising respect, branding, and the simple fact that most sports fans want to watch the culmination of this country's greatest sporting month rather than a so-so NBA regular-season game, the NBA does not schedule games on the first Monday night in April. That's when we college fans crown a champion and hum merrily to "One Shining Moment" and face the slow realization that college basketball is, like Wyclef Jean, gone 'til November. It is not an NBA night.
Alas, thanks to the lockout, the crucial Christmas start date and the league's desire to stuff 66 games into a condensed calendar window, the 2011-12 NBA schedule is all kinds of wacky this season. Many NBA teams will get stuck with daunting back-to-back-to-back slates; some will go on the road for six or seven games in nine or 10 nights. And, for the first time in years, the NBA is going to play opposite the college men on the final night of the NCAA tournament, according to Dallas Morning News Mavericks writer Eddie Sefko:
For the first time since 2004, the NBA will have games on the Monday when the college basketball national championship game is played. [...] That will change this year. The Mavericks, who meet the L.A. Clippers, are among the NBA teams that will steal some of the spotlight on April 2 from the NCAA's signature event.
To be honest, I'm not sure how much of the spotlight is there to be "stolen." I mean, sure, last year's title game was horrific; the snootier NBA writers on my Twitter feed had a field day with some variation on "How bad is college basketball that Butler made it this far?" jokes. If 2012 serves up a similar dullard, some of those folks will switch over to watch That Dude play Blake Griffin and Co. And the NBA die-hards that tune out college hoops will probably do so anyway.
But the chances of 2012 serving up a title game like 2011 -- when we have so many elite teams with NBA lottery picks littering their rosters -- is awfully slim. More likely than not, we're going to get a big-time battle at the Final Four, one that will not only feature elite programs with the bluest of bloodlines but a smattering of some of the game's best future pros. If this season ends the way everyone will expect, April 2 is going to be epic. I love the NBA, but come on. Regular-season NBA hoops can't compete with that.