At the risk of setting myself up as the defender of the Mountain West Conference's television deal — a role I have absolutely no desire to fill — let's give credit where credit is due.
This season has been a huge improvement over last season in terms of the games that are available to local fans. Well, local fans who subscribe to DirecTV or a cable company that offers The mtn., CBS C and Versus, that is.
A year ago, it was kind of a joke to see what was happening as the season wound down. BYU and Utah games at Colorado State weren't on TV at all. Neither was the Utes' game at TCU. Or either of the Cougars' games against Air Force.
Particularly with BYU battling for a conference championship a year ago, it was a rather ridiculous situation.
This year, we've got Utah leading the MWC standings and BYU tied for second, a game behind in the loss column. And, lo and behold, it's actually possible to follow the race on TV. Because, as the season winds down, every time the Utes and the Cougars take the court, they're on one of the three channels with which the league has deals.
As a matter of fact, every one of BYU's league games this season has been or will be on TV. The only Utah MWC game that wasn't on TV was the Utes' league opener against Wyoming back on Jan. 3.
Clearly, this is because the games have been spread out across more days of the week and the starting times have been spread out over the days.
By scheduling games on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays (in addition to Saturdays), the league can get four matchups on TV even if they're all on The mtn. And, with one exception, all those games have been played at 6 or 8 p.m. — no more of those horrendous 10 p.m. starting times we used to see in the good ol'/bad ol' ESPN days.
(The one exception was an Air Force at Colorado State game on Tuesday, Jan. 20, that tipped off at 4 p.m.)
And the league has been able to air as many as four games on Saturdays by spreading out times — nothing earlier than 1 p.m. and nothing later than 8 p.m. at the sites of the games. The latest anything is being played is Saturday's BYU at UNLV game, which starts at 8 p.m. Pacific Time and, thus, 9 p.m. Mountain Time.
It's also helped that the league hasn't been afraid to have games overlap on different channels.
Again, I'm not suggesting that this television deal is perfect. Whether you want to call it complacency or resignation, we're getting used to it around here, but it's still hard to find games unless you live in the Mountain West "footprint" or have DirecTV.
But, at the very least, the scheduling has improved for MWC basketball fans who do have access to the games on The mtn., CBS C and Versus.