Even for those who don't much care for collegiate basketball, the academic league's annual elimination tournament best known as March Madness has a way of capturing water cooler conversation. The March Madness phenomenon has also played to the fore of EA Sports' annual basketball simulation, residing in the title of the game since the franchise was introduced in 1998. However, that will change as the hoops sim enters its 10th season later this year.
Bringing in line its annual college basketball game with its gridiron counterpart, EA Sports announced today that the next installment in the series will bear the title NCAA Basketball 09. The game will be released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 2 later this fall.
"There is more to college basketball than just the 65-team postseason NCAA Tournament, and our new name reflects this," commented EA Sports president Peter Moore. "College basketball is about the entire season, focusing on the fantastic school rivalries, recruiting, home court advantage, student sections, mascots, and loud arenas. The culmination of all of this is the tournament and NCAA March Madness, but to get there it takes so much more."
Along with officially announcing the game today, EA Sports said that UCLA alum Kevin Love will serve as cover star and spokesperson for this year's game. Drafted fifth by the Memphis Grizzlies and subsequently traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in 2008, leading the Bruins to a Final Four berth.
Aside from the name change, NCAA Basketball 09 will offer a number of revisions over last year's game. Headlining the game tweaks, EA Canada has included for the first time actual Division I coaches that will provide real-time advice, and players will also be challenged with running their home teams under the same precepts of their real-life counterparts. The Xbox 360 and PS3 editions of the game will also be operating an all-new gameplay engine, incorporating more than 1,000 new animation sequences and featuring revisited ball physics and opponent intelligence.