There is no doubt that Mid-Major college basketball is becoming much more popular across country. Thanks to the likes of Gonzaga, VCU, George Mason, Wichita State, and other cinderellas making big waves in the NCAA tournament over the past decade, the landscape of 'big-time' college basketball now extends beyond just the high major conferences.
This sudden spark in popularity is none more evident than in the amount of nationally televised Mid-Major college basketball games. And now with the addition of digital and online platforms such as ESPN3, the exposure for these programs is skyrocketing.
The MAAC, who has a long standing relationship with ESPN, has been a pioneer in promoting nationally televised mid-major college basketball games for years. This year Commissioner, Rich Ensor, will take yet another large step in gaining conference exposure by airing an all-time high 38 mens basketball games on national television, all on the ESPN family of networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 & ESPNU). This will include 31 regular season match-ups and all 7 games of the MAAC Tournament.
The complete televised schedule, which was released by the MAAC on Tuesday can be found here, and will feature mainly the rivalry games and marquee match-ups during the regular season as well as 13 'wildcard' games, which is also a new high for the MAAC. The 'wildcard' games allow ESPN to select from all the MAAC games scheduled on a given date to determine which game(s) will be aired, and which channel the game will be aired on.
Generally, ESPN will announce which game will air no later than 21 days before the contest. This level of flexibility allows ESPN and the MAAC to determine throughout the season which games are the most enticing to viewers, and allow them to air the best possible match-ups.
This year's wildcard games will be held on January 15, 22, 29 and February 12, 19 and 26. Some of the potential key wild card games for the upcoming season include Manhattan at Iona on January 29th (ESPNU) and the return game of that series on February 26th (ESPN2), as well as Canisius at Niagara January 22nd (ESPNU) and Monmouth at Rider on February 12th (ESPNU).
Aside from the nationally televised MAAC Conference games on the ESPN networks, several schools have non-conference bouts that will also appear on nationally televised platforms including participation in several multi-team pre-conference tournaments including the Orlando Classic, 2k Sports Classic, Cancun Challenge, Hall of Fame Tip-off, Continental Las Vegas Classic, and several others.
All 11 MAAC schools also have their own digital networks which air all men's basketball home games that have not been picked up by national broadcasts. In addition to the 11 MAAC School's digital networks, the MAAC also offers 'MAAC TV' which is a 100% online digital network that also airs several of the games shown on the individual school networks, as well as highlight shows, game recaps, and post game coverage around the MAAC.
Times have changed around Mid-Major basketball --The avid MAAC fan will now catch every single MAAC basketball game live throughout the course of the season.