The New NCAA Tourney Schedule Is a Bitch!

Remember when the second round of the NCAAs ended at a decent hour? When you could sidle up to a bar a little after noon on Sunday, watch eight games and be home before the second segment of 60 Minutes began? Or feast on basketball all day but still make a late Saturday night reservation without missing huge chunks of three games?

I certainly do and it is a big reason why I have always thought of “2nd Round Saturday” and “2nd Round Sunday” as two of the best sports days of the year, right up there with the NFL Final Four, the NCAA Final Four and Patriots Day in Boston.

That said, I was a bit surprised and plenty disappointed when I woke up Saturday and discovered that the NCAA, along with their broadcasting partners, had decided to break up a tight little package and turn the second round into a torturous marathon. So goodbye Saturday night dinner. Goodbye Scott Pelle. And hello 9:40 Sunday night start.

I understand some of the logic behind the new broadcasting schedule. And if I lived on the West Coast, I am sure I would have a different take. But seeing as I live in NYC and don’t care much for how TV dollars are maximized, I can’t help but be put off by this changeup.

For reference, this is how the second round used to be broadcast. On Saturday, a game would start just after one, two more would come around 3:30, three would start around six and two more would come on around 8:30. Worst comes to worst, you could watch almost everything and still make a 10:00 dinner. As for Sunday, the schedule began with a game at noon, four starts would roll in between two and three, and three games would begin around 5:30. So by 7:30, the tourney was down to sixteen and you were home in time to decompress for the week the ahead.

This year, the NCAA decided to spread things out and the result was much less overlap and twelve full hours of coverage each day. Frankly, that is just a little bit too much for even the most ardent fan to endure. Eight hours was one thing. But twelve?

Aside from the added hours, there are two other big problems with this new schedule. First off, the viewer is now screwed if a game gets out of hand early as it did Sunday when Ohio State murdered George Mason. With no games warming up in the pen, the networks basically stuck the viewers with an hour of dead time. At five o’clock on a Sunday, with the inconsequential Knicks and inconsequential golf being the only other things on, this is a pretty big problem.

Second, unless my team is playing, I need more than one thing happening at once, especially when it comes to tourney basketball, with all the lengthy timeouts. Yeah, it’s all well and good to follow a game closely but I don’t have to vulture all eight games each day. Quite frankly, who does? Further, I have evolved to the point where I can honestly say I prefer to watch three games rolling along at different stages. Sure, I might miss some subtlety. But I can live with that so long as my commitment to the day is eight hours rather than twelve. And there is something to be said for a wave of big moments that hit you all at once rather than those that come in dribs and drabs.

The truth of the matter is I love the second round of the tourney. Unlike the first round, which is vastly over-hyped and almost always disappoints, the second round nearly always delivers. That said, it doesn’t need twelve hours to make a case that can be made in eight. And by choosing the former over the latter, the networks have stuck us with a meal that takes far too long to eat.



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