March Madness, week one. For years I have thought about being able to watch all/most of the tournaments -- both men's and women's NCAA. Usually, with teaching every day and the hours of commuting, it was just not going to happen. But this year I am on another ersatz sabbatical and I had a chance. Indeed, until Saturday afternoon and evening, when we went out, I saw a piece of nearly every game. That's a lot of basketball. And a lot of time on the computer writing. Sunday with 8 men's and 8 women's games I still had a 3000 word day.
The men's side began on Tuesday. What had been one or two play-in games to round up to 65+ teams is now a full-fledged two-day event called the First Four. And they're not all 16 seeds anymore. Dayton, Ohio, hosted the First Four -- I think they've done it before. One of the teams was the University of Dayton Flyers, which had the broadcast team claiming it was unfair to have such a home team advantage.
Really? I can imagine the entire women's tournament saying "Cry me a river." With all these big colliseums taken, the women's tournament starts off at university arenas, hosted by some of the top seeds. Imagine getting into the tournament and getting to be a #16 seed and playing #1 UConn... at home in Storrs, Connecticut.
They now call the men's First Four the First Round, but with only four games on Tuesday and Wednesday, puh-lease. The Real First Round began on Thursday. 64 teams, 2 days, 32 games. It's one helluva show. Although the numbers don't agree, it felt like every game was within one or two points, no matter the seeding differential. There was a lot of exciting basketball.
As I explain every year, I don't have a lot of patience for either NBA or much of the collegiate games. But March Madness? The one-and-done format appeals to me. The tournament bleeding into the beginning of Spring and Easter -- when we lived in the U.P. we'd travel to family friends in Wisconsin and usually spend hours watching the games on CBS. And living in North Carolina, a plethora of great teams -- UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest, Davidson -- and the Greensboro Colleseum hosting either ACC or NCAA games, got me started.
Cable means we no longer have CBS doing split screens and game jumps to cover up to four simultaneous games. Now we're splitting and timeslicing across networks:
CBS - 782 TBS - 745 TNT - 746 TruTV 743 on our local cable channels
The Recall button on the remote can only hop between two stations.
Michigan State fans, thrilled that Ann Arbor couldn't even muster an NIT bid, dissed their #7 seeding and so far they've made a lot of believers. On the men's side I mainly go for Big 10 teams. And all Big 10 Final Four would make me happy.
Then there's the women's brackets. Gosh there were some great games. Dayton is still in it and some top teams have been bumped off. I don't think the women's game gets the respect it deserves. Indeed, seeing home court arenas mostly empty when the teams, the cheerleaders, the bands and the officials are playing their hearts out -- sad.
In previous years, the men owned Thursday-Sunday, the women from Saturday-Tuesday. But this year they switched the women to Friday-Monday, which I think worked well. Other than that stupid mismatch about what First Round means. ESPN2 (771) did the yeoman work of trying to show everything, though ESPN (773) and ESPN3 (we-don't-get) did fill in some of the games.
Northwestern almost survived their first game. UConn stomped their games. Barack Obama made news this year with his women's bracket, picking Princeton to go all the way. On the other hand his niece is a freshman on the team, so sometimes you know you have to shoot yourself in the foot for love. Still, the President watched Princeton win their first game, but they're out now.
It's interesting that some of my animosity towards some teams/schools is not carried over to the women, possibly because I want to applaud all the efforts in the Division I Ignored Tournament. UConn and Tennessee and Stanford are favorites outside the Big 10. And the Lady Irish are the only Notre Dame team I'll root for, outside of watching Rudy. (grin) Don't ask, it's a thing, even though I have great respect for ND as a university.
In both tournaments I've enjoyed watching the expanded fourteen teams of the Big 10 -- I haven't check, but it's possible between the two tournaments that every school was in? I know NU, Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan in the women's only I think ... not sure about Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State. 132 teams is a lot to keep track of.
Now we get a few days rest. I'll ignore the NIT. Before the NCAA went to 48, 64, 64+ teams, the NIT meant something. Now it feels diminished. Old dog food. The losers bracket. Sorry.
I'll probably do the office on Wednesday, so I can clear the decks for the smaller assault of the Sweet 16 on Thursday and Friday. By the time we get past the Elite Eight on Monday, it'll be like, where'd all the basketball go?
Enjoy if you're watching. Enjoy if you're ignoring. Sorry if your team has one-and-doned already.