"Madness" Has New Component With More TV
March 14, 2011

Today copiers are buzzing, the water cooler is crowded, people are getting out their colored pens and probably a few dollar bills, and you will hear the word "bracket" more times in the next three weeks than you will for the entire rest of the year. Got your brackets filled out yet? Who ya got in your West bracket? March Madness has arrived.

The NCAA Championship Basketball Tournament, as it is properly known, has expanded from 65 to 68 teams this year. When it comes to filling out your brackets, that probably doesn't matter much, because you likely don't have to submit your entry in your pool or contest until Thursday, when the field is narrowed to 64. But after you pick your Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and eventual Champion, a new maddening situation. What channel is the game on?

With a new television contract, early round games will appear on four networks (CBS, TBS, TNT, and Tru-TV). All games will be televised in their entirety, which saves on all the quick switches by CBS where you see the ends of all the games, but can't focus on a single team or game if you want. Now you can decide which games you want to watch, as long as you know where they all are.

So don't forget to fill out your brackets, but have extra batteries for the remote while you're at it, and, like they say in the TV biz, "Check your local listings for the games and times in your area." (Actually, I have a list of the Thursday and Friday games for you right here).

ESPN's own madness: Even with the new, bigger field, it didn't take long for ESPN to blast the selection committee. "They did a bad job", said analyst Jay Bilas. "I haven't said that about a committee in several years, but they did a bad job." He also wondered aloud if certain committee members "knew the ball was round". Bilas, and the rest of the ESPN panel including Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps, felt that Colorado and Virginia Tech deserved bids over teams like Alabama-Birmingham and Virginia Commonwealth...ESPN for weeks has been touting a guy named Joe Lunardi as their expert "bracketologist"-- crediting his knowledge and updating constantly on which teams were going to be the last four in, and the first four out. Lunardi did not appear on the two-hour program. How can your bracketologist not appear on a show called Bracketology? Strange. Incidentally, Lunardi was half-right on his last four in, and first four out (he had Clemson and USC, but guessed wrong with St. Mary's and Virginia Tech).

More Hoop-la: This is considered the weakest field ever in NCAA Tournament history. Five teams in this year's field have 14 or more losses. Between 1985 and 2010, there have been a total of six (it should be said, though, that the season is slightly longer than it was a few years ago)...Without St. Mary's, there are no northern California schools in the tourney (UCLA, USC, UC Santa Barbara, and San Diego State are in from down south).

Oh yeah, my picks: Taking less than ten minutes to fill out a bracket sheet, I've got both UCLA and San Diego State (with no bias or personal rooting interest of course) to the Elite Eight. My Final Four are Ohio State, Texas, Kansas, and Wisconsin (I guess I don't like the Big East and their 11 teams) with Ohio State beating Kansas for the title.

Baseball stuff in a basketball column: Yuba City native and Oakland A's minor league catcher Max Stassi has been reassigned to minor league camp. The 19 year-old was 0-for-2 at the plate with no strikeouts in three games with the big club... Former Gold Sox infielder and Sendai, Japan native Toma Irokawa was in California when the deadly earthquake and tsunami struck his homeland last week. Irokawa told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat that his family is safe, but it snowed in Sendai and there is no power. He also said he has not yet heard from many of his friends and is worried...On a lighter note, WGN-TV Cubs analyst Bob Brenly on the rib injuries the Milwaukee Brewers have suffered this spring; "They ought to hire Tony Roma as their trainer."

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