Who wants to talk some college basketball? Before I get to the story, perhaps I should mention that last night was a banner night for blown leads. North Carolina was throttling Duke in the first half and let it all slip away. Perhaps more embarrassing, your own top-10 ranked Villanova Wildcats took an inexcusable loss at Rutgers. Up 13 with about five minutes left, the Wildcats went into ‘Nova mode and the lead vanished. Rutgers hit what was probably the most unlikely succession of 3-pointers in the history of the sport, but still ‘Nova was holding a 3-point lead with six ticks left on the clock. So, they survived. Worst case scenario, they take the punch and kill them in OT, right? Wrong. When Corey Fisher is on the floor anything can happen. He fouls a guy shooting a 3, you can figure out the rest, Rutgers wins by one point. Why does it always seem like Jay Wright never has complete control of these guys? My early advice? Don’t put ‘Nova past the 2nd round of your pool. If they happen to get hot, enjoy the run as a fan not as a bettor, otherwise, you’re looking at the double gut punch.
But, speaking of the tournament, the real news is that it will be plastered on your TV sets much better this year. The NCAA has always exclusively broadcast their games on CBS. To see them all you needed to get the “package,” and even then there was usually 3 or 4 games going on at once for the first 4 days of the tournament. No longer. The NCAA and CBS are spreading the wealth. This year, the games will be featured on TNT, TBS and TruTV as well. They will also be more staggered so there is less overlap between games. To top it off there will be Sunday night prime time action on the first weekend. I have to say, that’s a great feature, because every single year I forget the games are over at 5 pm on that first weekend and it gets a little depressing for a minute.
I don’t know exactly how much this will change your viewing experience. The most important thing will still be the final five minutes of most of these games, and I have to say CBS always did a decent job of showing tight finishes. They wouldn’t stick with a blowout if a game outside your regional coverage was coming down to the wire. Of course, I guess if you are a Kansas fan or something, and you want to see their entire dismantling of Lafayette, then this is good news for you. And, for us on the east coast, it means we may actually see a team from west of Ohio in the first couple of rounds. But, the Big East is the only real conference anyway, right? So, what does it matter?
I think the only drawback from this new television strategy is mostly a sentimental one. We may lose that hectic feeling of opening Thursday. You have your pool out, you are trying to figure out where to go see the games, what time do the games start…there are so many questions and unknowns that it becomes a rush. Now, it sounds like everything will be neatly organized. Also, if you have the one friend who somehow memorizes every first round game, knows what sub-regional every team is in, and the corresponding TV schedule….well, yeah, he or she becomes less useful. I’m sure we’ll all be basking in progress by Friday, though. Can you believe we used to have to watch two games at once on the same channel?