In a likely response to last year's abysmal attendance in Baltimore for the Final Four (and especially the title game), the NCAA has revised its Microsoft Outlook calendar and is moving the start times for both Semifinal Saturday and Memorial Monday.
The games -- this year hosted in cosmopolitan Foxborough, Massachusetts -- will face-off as follows:
Game One: 2:30 P.M.
Game Two: 5:00 P.M.
Championship: 1:00 P.M.
These are major timing differences from 2011, in which the semifinal games started at 4:00 P.M. and 6:30 P.M., respectively. The title game last year did not embark on its voyage until 3:30 in the afternoon.
This smells like a move not by ESPN to maximize its audience, but by the NCAA to potentially maximize its attendance. Geographically, Gillette Stadium is a bit of an outpost. (It's always 1976 there, and the two-lane roads getting into and out of the place make you yearn for period-proper Ford Pintos to dot the thoroughfares so that there's the possibility of rear-end explosions and a little local excitement). Baltimore hasn't shown great interest in making the drive up I-95 for the games, either because they don't want to fight Memorial Day Weekend traffic -- which, I'll attest to, is a fate worse than having your eyeballs removed with an ice cream scooper while fully awake -- or simply because they have no interest in isolated Massachusetts.
These start times should, hopefully, cure a little of what has ailed this weekend in recent years.
Regardless, this has all the makings of a smart decision, and if the alternatives are late-afternoon/early-evening start times or those mindless 10:55 A.M. championship face-offs of old, I'll take this seven days a week and twice on Sunday.