Now that it's the Tuesday night after the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, hopefully, you've recovered from four straight 12-plus-hour days of basketball and are getting ready for Regionals, which are a little less intense from a time perspective.
The best thing about the new CBS/Turner arrangement is obviously the ability to watch every tournament game in its entirety, but that doesn't mean there aren't some things about the setup that are less than stellar. And no, I'm not talking about the studio crew and broadcast teams. Five things, other than a stomach bug and migraines, that hampered my enjoyment of the best four days of the year are after the jump.
During many previous tournaments (though not 2010), no game tipped off in the 4:30-5 p.m. ET window during either the Thursday or Friday of the first weekend. That provided a nice opportunity for viewers at home to take a nap or stretch their legs. Plus, it gave fans the opportunity to get charged for the evening session. This year, two games took place at that time on both days. Since I wasn't feeling well, I ended up taking a nap break anyway, but I really would have rather not missed any games to do so.
Plus, the late afternoon ET tipoff used to exclusively be a function of needing to close the afternoon session at a Western site. So, Thursday's games in Tucson and Denver made sense. However, Friday's games in Chicago and Cleveland meant there would be a delay to the start of the evening session in both of those cities. Remember, the day session crowd must be cleared out of the arena before the evening session crowd can enter, even if there is a good amount of overlap between the two groups. With the day session games ending at around 6:30-7 ET and the night session games slated to tip off at some point between 7 and 8 ET, crowd and atmosphere issues are inevitable. While there wasn't a huge delay in Chicago, there was in Cleveland, which resulted in the Syracuse-Indiana State game starting well past 10 p.m. ET.
My solution: Stick with just one 4:30 p.m. ET tipoff, and ensure it's at a Western site to at least make late tip times a bit more time zone appropriate. It's not that difficult to do this anymore, especially if you correct issue No. 2.
In 2010, Oklahoma City and Spokane switched first weekend dates so that there wouldn't be two Pacific Time Zone sites on the same day. This resulted in both Thursday and Friday having that standalone late afternoon start. This year, both Western sites, Tucson and Denver, were slated for Thursday/Saturday games, though the Mile High City is on Mountain Time. Next year, both Western sites, Portland and Albuquerque, will again be on Thursday/Saturday. That means we'll have more extra late Friday and Sunday tipoffs in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.
My solution: Swap the days for either Portland or Albuquerque with one of the Eastern sites for next season. It's not like the NCAA doesn't have each building booked for the four days anyway. Then, make sure the Western site gets the later start times on Sunday. With cable televising the later Sunday games, there's no need to worry about 60 Minutes anymore. It's time for the CBS and Turner to start programming like it.
Other than the late Sunday games, my biggest gripe with weekend scheduling is the abundance of national games and lack of viewing options early on Saturday and Sunday. CBS got super lucky this season in that all four of their exclusive games basically went down to the wire. What happens when they get a clunker in the middle of a Sunday afternoon one year?
It just felt odd on Sunday that the bulk of the action was starting at just about the time things began to wind down in just about every previous Tournament, save 2003. For those of us with day jobs, wrapping things up by 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday gave us a few hours to reflect and come back to reality before Monday morning.
My solution: Keep the Saturday schedule as it is, though get cable involved with a game earlier. As for Sunday, end the action at around 9 p.m. ET. Maybe give CBS one national game on the final day of the first weekend instead of two.
I know that I go on and on about this every year, but this issue is even more problematic now that there are four networks carrying games, which means its difficult enough to keep track of things already without every single arena looking the same. Sure, I can sort of understand the NCAA's desire for neutrality (though given how an attempt is made to keep higher seeds closer to home, this seems a bit contradictory) and the need to reduce the number of those pesky decals on the court, but were things really so bad back in the 80s and early 90s when the NCAA used small decals at the now non-existent center spot and in the corners of the courts, which just happen to be outside of the field of play?
My solution: Except in the most egregious circumstances, play games on an arena's existing court. While it may put the company making all of these courts for the NCAA out of business, it will return a little more color to an event that's become blander for no good reason.
And while you're at it, could you please go back to putting the team logos on the Final Four floor, as was done pre-1987?
Commercials On MMOD
Finally, is it really necessary to prevent people from switching games during March Madness on Demand commercial breaks? I know it's a free service and the ad revenue is necessary, but with the ads repeating so frequently, this block is insulting.
My solution: Pretty obvious, but if you're so concerned about revenue that you won't allow people to switch games without seeing the ads, maybe it's time to charge a nominal fee. It's not my ideal solution, but I'm trying to be practical.
With only two games on at once on Thursday and Friday, and national broadcasts in full swing over the weekend, many of these issues go away for this season, but it would be nice if they were addressed in time for next March.