You can be cynical about the NCAA Tournament. I am, often.
It bugs me that the NCAA makes so much money off of this, and the players whom we're actually tuning in to see make little except compensation in kind. It bugs me that this is the NCAA Tournament — the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, which the NCAA is now marketing heavily as NCAA March Madness, not the literally hundreds of other NCAA Tournaments that the organization puts on for athletes with the money it earns from these three weeks of 65 games of television inventory.
It has bugged me that courts are uniformly designed, though that is blessedly changing this year — not enough, by my sights, but some. It has bugged me that the NCAA decided by fiat that its First Four games were the First Round, though that also changed this year.
It bugs me that the NCAA Selection Committee will seemingly always be beholden to the archaic RPI, and keen to hand berths (and the value of them) to bigger, better-funded schools. It bugs me that the Final Four is seemingly forever bound to take roost in football stadia now, never to return to the basketball arenas that would make for far better viewing experiences than bird's-eye views.
And it bugs me that the Tournament so often coincides with my birthday, though it doesn't do that this year. (My birthday is Monday.) I like having my birthday truly off!
But despite all the annoying things: Nothing tops the NCAA Tournament for sustained and concentrated drama. With 32 games in two days, 48 in four, and 52 in six if we count the First Four, the odds are great that we'll have at least a handful of good finishes and upsets every year. With CBS and Turner putting generally good broadcasters on the air and only one Reggie Miller existing, the games are enjoyable experiences. With the Internet, everything is replayable, immortal, and so much bigger than it was before.
And with 67 teams entering the NCAA Tournament only to lose, the stakes are as high as anyone could want. With bracket pools (join ours!), things are at stake for us, too.
That's why I watch. That's why we watch. We always will, I think.
Here's to another year of madness. And here's your TV schedule for Thursday and Friday's first round games.
Thursday, March 17: First Round Games
|12:15 p||Providence||West||(4) Duke Blue Devils vs. (13) NC-Wilmington Seahawks||Ian Eagle/Chris Webber/Len Elmore//Evan Washburn|
|12:40 p||Raleigh||Midwest||(8) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (9) Butler Bulldogs||Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner//Lewis Johnson|
|1:30 p||Des Moines||South||(8) Colorado Buffaloes vs. (9) Connecticut Huskies||Jim Nantz/Grant Hill/Bill Raftery//Tracy Wolfson|
|2:00 p||Denver||Midwest||(4) Iowa State Cyclones vs. (13) Iona Gaels||Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas//Jamie Erdahl|
|After conc. I||Providence||West||(5) Baylor Bears vs. (12) Yale Bulldogs||Eagle/ Webber/Elmore//Washburn|
|After conc. I||Raleigh||Midwest||(1) Virginia Cavaliers vs. (16) Hampton Pirates||Harlan/Miller/Bonner//Johnson|
|After conc. I||Des Moines||South||(1) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (16) Austin Peay Governors||Nantz/Hill/Raftery//Wolfson|
|After conc. I||Denver||Midwest||(5) Purdue Boilermakers vs. (12) Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans||Catalon/ Lappas// Erdahl|
|6:50 p||Providence||South||(3) Miami-Florida Hurricanes vs. (14) Buffalo Bulls||Eagle/ Webber/Elmore//Washburn|
|7:10 p||Des Moines||East||(5) Indiana Hoosiers vs.(12) Chattanooga Mocs||Nantz/Hill/Raftery//Wolfson|
|7:20 p||Raleigh||East||(1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (16) Florida Gulf Coast Eagles||Harlan/Miller/Bonner//Johnson|
|7:27 p||Denver||Midwest||(3) Utah Utes vs. (14) Fresno State Bulldogs||Catalon/ Lappas// Erdahl|
|After conc. III||Providence||South||(6) Arizona Wildcats vs. (11) Wichita State Shockers||Eagle/ Webber/Elmore//Washburn|
|After conc. III||Des Moines||East||(4) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (13) Stony Brook Seawolves||Nantz/Hill/Raftery//Wolfson|
|After conc. III||Raleigh||East||(8) USC Trojans vs. (9) Providence Friars||Harlan/Miller/Bonner//Johnson|
|After conc. III||Denver||Midwest||(6) Seton Hall Pirates vs. (11) Gonzaga Bulldogs||Catalon/ Lappas// Erdahl|
Friday, March 18: Round of 64
|12:15 p||St. Louis||Midwest||(7) Dayton Flyers vs. (10) Syracuse Orange||Brian Anderson/Steve Smith//Dana Jacobson|
|12:40 p||Brooklyn||South||(2) Villanova Wildcats vs. (15) UNC-Asheville Bulldogs||Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel//Allie LaForce|
|1:30 p||Oklahoma City||West||(7) Oregon State Beavers vs. (10) Virginia Commonwealth Rams||Carter Blackburn/ Mike Gminski//Jaime Maggio|
|2:00 p||Spokane||South||(4) California Golden Bears vs. (13) Hawaii Rainbow Warriors||Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Ros Gold-Onwude|
|After conc. I||St. Louis||Midwest||(2) Michigan State Spartans vs. (15) Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders||Anderson/Smith//Jacobson|
|After conc. I||Oklahoma City||West||(2) Oklahoma Sooners vs. (15) CS-Bakersfield Roadrunners||Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio|
|After conc. I||Brooklyn||South||(7) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (10) Temple Owls||Lundquist/Spanarkel//LaForce|
|After conc. I||Spokane||South||(5) Maryland Terrapins vs. (12) South Dakota State Jackrabbits||Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude|
|6:50 p||St. Louis||East||(7) Wisconsin Badgers vs.(10) Pittsburgh Panthers||Anderson/Smith//Jacobson|
|7:10 p||Brooklyn||East||(3) West Virginia Mountaineers vs. (14) Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks||Lundquist/Spanarkel//LaForce|
|7:20 p||Oklahoma City||West||(3) Texas A&M Aggies vs. (14) Green Bay Phoenix||Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio|
|7:27 p||Spokane||West||(1) Oregon Ducks vs. (16) Holy Cross Crusaders||Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude|
|After conc. III||St. Louis||East||(2) Xavier Musketeers vs. (15) Weber State Wildcats||Anderson/Smith//Jacobson|
|After conc. III||Brooklyn||East||(6) Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs.(11) Michigan Wolverines||Lundquist/Spanarkel//LaForce|
|After conc. III||Oklahoma City||West||(6) Texas Longhorns vs.(11) Northern Iowa Panthers||Blackburn/Gminski//Maggio|
|After conc. III||Spokane||West||(8) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (9) Saint Joseph's Hawks||Dedes/Gottlieb//Gold-Onwude|