Friday, March 18, 2005

Paper Tigers in the NCAAs?

One team literally was a paper Tiger yesterday: LSU. The Bayou Bengals took the fourth-largest loss of the day (14 points, but after eight minutes into the first half, the game was not close) and were the second-highest seeded team to get dumped. The highest: LSU's SEC West companion Alabama. Trend?

Another underwhelming performance: Illinois. Not just because of the score (67-55, and only a one-point halftime lead; at least Washington's 11-point win was NOT as close as the score might indicate), but because the Illins couldn't shoot and were pounded on the boards.

Some other observations going from early today and into tomorrow: (1) game of the day: West Virginia/Creighton -- glad I concentrated on this one on my satellite package because I saw the slamming ending; (2) the relative dearth of surprises yesterday is not, in itself, surprising. I think this is because there were so few true bubble teams when selection Sunday rolled around that the top and bottom of the at-large pool was well-defined; yesterday it went basically true to form; (3) thought for the day is that major teams should schedule as many top mid-majors or best-of-the-low-conference teams as they can -- it helps down the road because those middies and top minor teams will want to kill the majors and play like maniacs, kind of like what the majors will face in the first round of the NCAA.

TV coverage notions: (a) CBS seems to be switching around its main regional feed pretty well, but I'm still concentrating on the games I want to watch; (b) I think it's interesting that CBS does not have UNC/Duke/Kentucky on its national game Saturday. The way CBS schedules the Tourney, Saturday is a quadruple-header -- a national game to start off, then 2 games mid-afternoon, 3 games late afternoon and 2 games in the early evening. Recently CBS has scheduled Duke or Carolina as the national Saturday game and this tends to backfire because invariably it's a #1 v. #8/9 and often turns into a stomping. One exception: in 2000, Syracuse-Kentucky was the national game, a good pick because Kentucky is a national name-brand team, SU has the NYC market, and Ashley Judd crowd shots were plentiful; plus it was a close game (SU 52-50).

The stompings mean CBS loses viewers for the last 45 minutes of its game coverage plus transition to the next game. This year, the national game is Gonzaga/Texas Tech -- more of a hoop-geek matchup. Washington and Illinois play later in the day. CBS may have learned from 2003's Arizona/Gonzaga classic that it will get more viewers with good late games than with an attractive early one.

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