March 18, 2010
NEW YORK – Well, do you need a minute to catch your breath?
CBS couldn't have asked for a better start to its opening window of games. It was a 150-minute marathon of three terrific, close games that included three overtimes, one upset and another nearly mammoth defeat with Robert Morris giving Villanova all it could handle in 45 minutes of basketball.
The fly in the ointment? Some viewers were robbed of last-minute shots and overtime action. Reports and complaints are coming out of the Midwest and the West that CBS didn't pipe in coverage for the end of the Old Dominion-Notre Dame game. Also: office workers were pounding their fists out of frustration because March Madness on Demand froze out all across the country while Robert Morris and Villanova were playing a tight game down the stretch in regulation.
CBS got its Internet feed back in time for the end of the Villanova game, but it can't undo not giving viewers in the Mountain and Western time zones a chance to see Old Dominion hold on against the Irish. The point is, while those two teams were deciding their fates with less than 10 seconds remaining, people in Midwest and West were kept on the other games – which were still close, but not as urgent.
Someone simply forgot to flip the switch with all the chaos that was going on. There is no argument to be made for not showing a last-second shot, unless home markets of other games are watching a close matchup. That's not the case we had here.
In terms of CBS' luck, though, is it possible it could've asked for a better first window? There will be some chatter about how the network handled some of its coverage – and duct tape may be brought in to prevent any other blackouts for its MMOD streaming – but these games were all close and absolutely enthralling. In short: the biggest win of the day so far.
I'm reporting here from CBS' broadcast center in Manhattan, and the room was filled with people gasping and cheering every 45 seconds for the past hour.
Will we get a better window of games in the next 48 hours than this?
The heartbreaker: Villanova escapes a terrible shooting day to hold on against Little Guy Robert Morris, 73-70 in overtime. RMU had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds and send us to another free session, but Karon Abraham's shot went begging as the clock found zero. CBS wins because: Villanova, a big Philadelphia draw, stays alive while keeping it in doubt until the final shot.
The frantic double-OT game: No. 7 Brigham Young pulled away from Florida in the final minutes, thanks to Michael Loyd Jr.'s free-throw shooting and Jimmer Fredette's onions from 3-point land, to knock out the Gators 99-92. This game got the least amount of play among the three in the first window but it was by far the closest thing to resembling tug of war. BYU blew a double-digit lead in the second half and would have lost if Florida hadn't blown chances to hit game-winning shots at the end of regulation and overtime. CBS wins because: a streak is over. BYU gets its first tournament win since 1993.
The upset: With 11th-seeded Old Dominion knocking out Big East resident and hot-as-of-late Notre Dame, CBS gets the always-welcomed upset. The game was perhaps the fastest played contest in NCAA tournament history. It tipped after 12:30 and was done before 2:20. CBS wins because: well, upsets improve storylines, and if you can find the ones that don't affect big-time TV ratings in the long run, that's a plus for the suits.
Quite an opening act, but we've got plenty more opportunities for an upstaging.