NCAA Tournament First, I Mean Second, Round TV Schedule And Viewing Advice

So, it's almost time for the two best days in American sports the First Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, that means you likely have a few questions. What times will these games start? Who's announcing? Will my local team air on CBS no matter what? What's a truTV?

Not only am I your resident bracketologist, but I have way too much interest and trivial knowledge of how this Tournament TV stuff works, thanks to a broadcast journalism degree I don't get a whole lot of use out of, along with an obsession about boring administrative stuff that few have. Therefore, I have plenty of answers for you after the jump.

For the First Second Round on Thursday and Friday, the biggest change, other than the fact every game will most likely be available on your cable system (though not necessarily in HD), is that the afternoon tip times are a bit spread out. Evening tips will remain roughly the same, but they'll start a bit earlier. The first night games, Evening Window No. 1, will tip at some point between 6:45 and 7:15 p.m. ET, meaning the nightcaps, Evening Window No. 2, will start during the 9:15-10 p.m. ET window.

In the afternoon, however, CBS will start with a game at noon ET, with truTV getting involved a half-hour later. I've creatively named this "Afternoon Window No. 1." On Thursday, these games will be in Tampa (CBS) and Washington (truTV). Between 1:30 and 3, four games will tip off, the conclusion of the doubleheader at the CBS and truTV sites, and the start of a new pair of doubleheaders on TBS (Denver) and TNT (Tucson). This will be Afternoon Window No. 2.

Afternoon Session No. 3 will see the conclusion of this second pair of doubleheaders. Keep that in mind, both games at a particular site during a particular session will be on the same channel. For example, CBS will air both Tampa games Thursday afternoon, but will switch to Denver for the evening.

In terms of the new Afternoon Session 3, these games replace that odd 4:30 or 5 p.m. ET start that took place in an arena in the Pacific Time Zone and was only aired locally in the teams' local market. Eventually, CBS College Sports picked it up, but that move didn't do much to increase viewership. Two games instead of one should boost that. Plus, this will be done on both days, and not necessarily at a Western site.

Unfortunately, this innovation means the atmosphere in three more arenas will be underwhelming for the beginning of the first game of the evening session. Take Friday's 4:30 approximate tip time for Ohio State vs. either Texas Southern or UTSA. That game will end at some point between 6:30 and 7, at which time Session No. 1 ends and everyone in the building has to exit and get their ticket scanned for Session 2, then return to their seats. That evening doubleheader is led off by an intriguing game between Xavier and Marquette, which happens to start at 7:15. Expect to see a lot of people trying to get in the building and back in their seats during the first 20 minutes of that one.

Another criticism I have of how games are set for TV is that occasionally all four higher seeds in action during a session will play at the same time, while the contests pairing the two lower seeds in a pod, which are likely to be closer, are grouped together in the next tip off window. Take Thursday night for example. The early evening tipoffs feature one 2, a pair of 3s, and a 4, which means the late games are a 7 vs. 10, two 6 vs. 11s, and 5 vs. 12. How hard would it be to mix the higher and lower seeded games better within a window? Of course, you'd want to keep a pair of teams who are in the same general area from being on TV at the same time--for ratings purposes, not logistical ones, but that doesn't appear to be much of a problem this year.

There are further changes afoot for the Second Third Round this weekend, most prominently that CBS will air two and a half games before the other networks even get involved. That's an increase over the single national game they aired on each Second Round day under the old contract. The Eye Network will have tips at 12, 2:30, and 5 ET on both Saturday and Sunday.Turner's first tip on both of weekend days will be a 6 p.m. ET start on TNT, the first game of a doubleheader. TBS starts a twin bill of its own at 7 p.m. ET, while TruTV has a single game at 7:30 each evening.

That timing means games will end at around midnight ET on both Saturday and Sunday night, which is a rarity, as CBS typically wants to end coverage in time for 60 Minutes at 7 p.m. ET. The lone exception was 2003, the season when the network shifted Tournament games to ESPN to air news coverage of the Iraq War. The Tiffany Network eventually picked up an extra Sunday evening slot, one I'll always remember because Florida was a No. 2 seed playing in Tampa, where they lost to Michigan State to exit the Tournament after Round Two. Eight years later, look at the Gators' potential draw...

One major item you need to remember, however, is that your local team WILL NOT necessarily appear on your local CBS affiliate. If your chosen squad is in a pod selected by CBS, you're in luck. Otherwise, you'll need to scan basic cable.  This has caused a problem for fans of my other team, Syracuse, as Time Warner in Central New York won't pick up truTV HD, the network that will air the Orange's First Second Round game with Indiana State. (Note Sean Keeley's note that Time Warner owns truTV, making that decision even more nonsensical.)

EDIT: Time Warner added the channel this afternoon in Upstate New York. Comcast still hasn't done the same in Northern Virginia, however.

That's enough blathering out of me. Full schedules with all of the pertinent info (site, teams, time, station, announcers) are below. I'll be posting the times for each session again an hour or so before each afternoon and evening's games tip.

Need a bracket? Check out SB Nation Printable Bracket.

Thursday

Announcers

Tampa: Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel
Washington: Tim Brando/Mike Gminski
Denver: Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery
Tucson: Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner

Afternoon Window No. 1

Tampa (E)
No. 12 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers
12:15 p.m. ET CBS
Washington (SE)
No. 9 Old Dominion Monarchs vs. No. 8 Butler Bulldogs 12:40 p.m. ET truTV


My Verdict: Both of these games have potential, so you'd better find yourself in a place where you can catch both at the same time.

Afternoon Window No. 2

Denver (SW)
No. 13 Morehead St. Eagles vs. No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
1:40 p.m. ET TBS
Tucson (W)
No. 10 Penn St. Nittany Lions vs. No. 7 Temple Owls
2:10 p.m. ET TNT
Tampa (E)
No. 13 Princeton Tigers vs. No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats
approx. 2:45 p.m. ET CBS
Washington (SE)
No. 16 UNC-Asheville Bulldogs  vs. No. 1 Pittsburgh Panthers
approx. 3:10 p.m. ET truTV

 

My Verdict: Three out of four isn't bad. Yes, I do think Penn State can keep things competitive with Temple, one of two intrastate matchups in this window. The other is one of a pair of intriguing 4 vs. 13 games.

Afternoon Window No. 3

Denver (SW)
No. 12 Richmond Spiders vs. No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores
approx. 4:15 p.m. ET TBS
Tucson (W)
No. 15 Northern Colorado Bears vs. No. 2 San Diego St. Aztecs
approx. 4:40 p.m. ET TNT

 

My Verdict: Most likely, you can safely focus on the game in Denver, though I suspect Northern Colorado will hang with San Diego State for at least the first half.

Evening Window No. 1

Tampa (SE)
No. 15 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 2 Florida Gators
6:50 p.m. ET TBS
Denver (SE)
No. 14 Wofford Terriers vs. No. 3 BYU Cougars
7:15 p.m. ET CBS
Washington (W)
No. 14 Bucknell Bison vs. No. 3 Connecticut Huskies
7:20 p.m. ET TNT
Tucson (SE)
No. 13 Belmont Bruins vs. No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers
7:27 p.m. ET truTV


My Verdict: While I'll be paying close attention to the evening's first tip, the pair of 3-14 games could be interesting, particularly Wofford-BYU, just because the Terriers play a style and have the personnel to give the Cougars a real test. However, Wisconsin-Belmont is the gem here, a real upset special.

Evening Window No. 2

Tampa (SE)
No. 10 Michigan St. Spartans vs. No. 7 UCLA Bruins
approx. 9:20 p.m. ET TBS
Denver (SE)
No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 6 St. John's Red Storm
approx. 9:45 p.m. ET CBS
Washington (W)
No. 11 Missouri Tigers vs. No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats
approx. 9:50 p.m. ET TNT
Tucson (SE)
No. 12 Utah State Aggies vs. No. 5 Kansas St. Wildcats
approx. 9:57 p.m. ET truTV

 

My Verdict: This session is loaded. Get yourself to your local sports bar and strap in. The two 6 vs. 11 contests, in particular, should be intensely entertaining.

Friday

Announcers

Tulsa: Marv Albert/Steve Kerr
Charlotte: Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg
Chicago: Spero Dedes/Bob Wenzel
Cleveland: Gus Johnson/Len Elmore

Afternoon Window No. 1

Tulsa (W)
No. 13 Oakland, Mich. Golden Grizzlies vs. No. 4 Texas Longhorns
12:15 p.m. ET CBS
Charlotte (W)
No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 8 Michigan Wolverines 12:40 p.m. ET truTV

 

My Verdict: Considering that the first tip is one of my upset specials for the First Second Round, and the other will be featured in a post here Thursday morning, again, you'll want to be near a pair of TVs for the early afternoon.

Afternoon Window No. 2

Chicago (SW)
No. 15 Akron Zips vs. No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
1:40 p.m. ET TBS
Cleveland (E)
No. 9 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 8 George Mason Patriots
2:10 p.m. ET TNT
Tulsa (W)
No. 12 Memphis Tigers vs. No. 5 Arizona Wildcats
approx. 2:40 p.m. ET CBS
Charlotte (W)
No. 16 Hampton Pirates vs. No. 1 Duke Blue Devils
approx. 3:10 p.m. ET truTV

 

My Verdict: This is more like it: Two games likely to be close, mixed with two games that should be over around halftime. 

Afternoon Window No.3

Chicago (SW)
No. 10 Florida St. Seminoles vs. No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies approx. 4:15 p.m. ET TBS
Cleveland (E)
No. 16 UTSA Roadrunners vs. No. 1 Ohio St. Buckeyes
approx. 4:40 p.m. ET TNT

 

My Verdict: If you really need to get up and catch some fresh air, I'd pick this time to do it. A 1 vs. 16 game opposite a pair of teams known more for defense is your best shot at escaping a television over these two days.

Evening Window No. 1

Tulsa (SW)
No. 16 Boston U. Terriers vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks
6:50 p.m. ET TBS
Charlotte (E)
No. 15 Long Island U. Blackbirds vs. No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels
7:15 p.m. ET CBS
Chicago (SW)
No. 14 St. Peter's Peacocks vs. No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers
7:20 p.m. ET TNT
Cleveland (E)
No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. No. 6 Xavier Musketeers
7:27 p.m. ET truTV

 

My Verdict: Come to think of it, this window doesn't offer much either, except for the Marquette-Xavier game.

Evening Window No. 2

Tulsa (SW)
No. 9 UNLV Runnin' Rebels vs. No. 8 Illinois Fighting Illini
approx. 9:20 p.m. ET TBS
Charlotte (E)
No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs vs. No. 7 Washington Huskies
approx. 9:45 p.m. ET CBS
Chicago (SW)
No. 11 USC Trojans/VCU Rams vs. No. 6 Georgetown Hoyas approx. 9:50 p.m. ET TNT
Cleveland (E)
No. 14 Indiana St. Sycamores vs. No. 3 Syracuse Orange
approx. 9:57 p.m. ET truTV

 

My Verdict: Of course, with three higher seeds in action during the early evening, the First Second Round could end with a bang, thanks to a trio of mid-bracket contests.

So, there you go. Print out those tables and keep them handy for a thrill-packed two days of NCAA Tournament openers.

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