Jeremy: Jimmy, our favorite time of year has arrived. March Madness is here — and it’s got a different look this year.
IoT was on hiatus when the NCAA decided to tinker with the Tournament, so we’ve got a lot to talk about.
Let’s start with something positive: The TV coverage of the Tournament finally enters the 21st century for everyone this year.
With the new 14-year, $10.8 billion deal that CBS and Turner Broadcasting signed with the NCAA, every first- and second-round game will be shown on either CBS or one of three cable stations, TBS, TNT or truTV. Of course, fans who would rather see a competitive game than watch Duke beat up on some hapless 16 seed in the first round have had options for a while now (March Madness On Demand on their computer, the Mega March Madness package on DirecTV, a trip to the local sports bar, etc.). Innovative CBS stations like WRAL in Raleigh have also set up digital cable channels during the Tournament specifically to air out-of-market games. But since I moved to Florida, this is the first time that I’ll be able to flip around on my own TV and decide which game I want to watch without having to pay extra for it.
The CBS-Turner marriage also brings Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith to CBS’s studio show. If CBS turns Chuck loose like TNT does on its NBA broadcasts, that’s going to be highly entertaining.
And then there’s … well … ummm … it’s March Madness, and the NCAA can only do but so much to screw it up.
As you can probably already tell, I’m not a fan of the new “and improved” 68-team field, although it could have been worse (and still might be some day.)
The 64-team, pre-play-in-game(s) Tournament was perfect. Each team had an equal path to the national title — win six games and it’s yours. The old Tournament also felt like it had the appropriate quality of competition. Sure, some decent teams missed out every year, but to me, it should be hard to qualify as an at-large team. Sadly, now we’re stuck with four play-in games and debating whether increasingly mediocre teams should or should not have made it in.
So Jimmy, where do you stand on expansion? Is 68 teams too many or not enough? And now that we’ve got this new format, what do you think of the First Four setup?
Jimmy: Before I respond to your questions, JDA, I’d like to tip out a sip out of my Smirnoff Ice in memory of Sidney Lowe’s tenure at N.C. State.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the expansion. On one hand, anything that brings more Barkley to the world is a net good. I’d like to see him analyze pro football, host Bravo’s Real Housewives reunion shows and moderate presidential debates.
On the other hand, the “first four” expansion strikes me as a half-measure. It doesn’t satisfy those who want to see more games (and more money); nor does it serve the traditionalists who think a 64-team tournament is fine (and a 48-team tourney is perfect). And it doesn’t eliminate the snub. It just bumps a couple more teams off the snub list.
I’m still not sure I fully understand why the NCAA chose this particular expansion model. Why only three teams? And why not make them the four bottom seeds? This year’s zero-th round games match four would-be 16s and four would-be 12s. That makes no sense.
I am all in favor of the new TV deal. As you implied, it took far too long for the NCAA to join the rest of the free world in taking advantage of basic cable. I have to admit, though, I will miss the dramatic cutaways that have usually given me my only view of most first- and second-round games. I won’t miss those times when CBS chose not to cut away during a Duke-Southern Illinois blowout.
I’m coming back at you with a big question: What’s the state of the NCAA tournament? One argument against expansion is that it will dilute the pool of teams. I’d argue the pool’s been diluted for the better part of a decade (at least) by the fact that no team can stay together for more than a year.
Answering your own question is rude. All apologies. But back to you.
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