March 22, 2009
CBS does an excellent job broadcating the NCAA tournament. Along with the network's coverage of The Masters and NBC's work with Sunday Night Football and the Olympics, the NCAA tournament is as good at sports on TV can get.
As evidenced by the network's masterful cutting between the finishes of Ohio State-Siena and Wisconsin-Florida State on Friday night and Duke-Texas and Gonzaga-Western Kentucky on Saturday, CBS has the art of switching games down to a science. But the fact that they have to do so is part of the biggest problem with the tournament: scheduling.
Having multiple games going on at the same time is what makes the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament so much fun. But it's not so great when the three games that are on are all at halftime at the same point (like in the late-afternoon games yesterday) or when they end at the same time (like the last two nights). The tip-offs of the first and second round games are staggered a bit so that, theoretically, this won't happen. This year, that hasn't worked.
It's impossible to plan perfectly. With games being played at different paces due to fouls, timeouts and injuries, there's no way to get four games to end at different times. Still, the NCAA could space out the tip-offs a little more (maybe every ten minutes) so that it'd be less likely.
Having too many games to watch is a great problem to have though ... it's having too few that's an issue. Earlier today, Syracuse-Arizona State was the only game on the slate. Yesterday, there was just one tip-off before 3:10 p.m. ET (Villanova-UCLA). But at 4:00 p.m. today, four games will be going on across the country, with three concurrent battles being waged afterward. Why cram all those games into the same time slot while leaving noon to 2:00 with just one?
When the solo games are boring (like both this weekend) it makes for an unappealing afternoon of basketball. There is no need for them. For the first weekend of the tournament, CBS should always have at least two games on at once, the better to facilitate the madness of March. If they do that, the NCAA tournament will be even more perfect than it already is.