CBS should expand coverage of tourney, especially early on

Because of various spring break trips, I missed out on several of the biggest sports stories from last week. I did catch some footage from Congress’s hearings on steroids. Everyone is talking about McGwire shattering his legacy and Palmeiro looking like a porn star, but my favorite part has to be how the ever-desperate for attention Curt Schilling babbled his way through a prepared speech with too many words he couldn’t pronounce.

Unfortunately, I only managed to watch a few NCAA tourney games, missing a few of the more colossal upsets. Really, for the most part, my closest glimpse at Cinderella came while watching that abysmal Hilary Duff movie on a plane to Puerto Rico. Then again, thanks to CBS’s masterful programming, there’s a good chance you’d still feel like you missed out on a lot of basketball even if you were glued to your television all weekend.

Is there anything more frustrating than staring at the top of your screen watching the scores of a tight game get closer and closer as you desperately wait for CBS to switch its coverage away from a less compelling matchup? I don’t get it. CBS used to go split screen when multiple contests got interesting, but they seem to have done away with that format.

The network needs to find a way to expand its coverage, especially in the early rounds when as many as four games are being contested simultaneously. Perhaps CBS could start broadcasting games on affiliates like NBC does for the Olympics. I’d say MTV, or at least MTV2, looks like a quality candidate. I think viewers will be able to survive a weekend without being exposed to Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore hosting “Spring Break in Cancun” as they attempt to hype a surefire box office bomb. Hey, MTV will replay all of its footage from spring break for at least another three months anyway.

While they’re at it, they could also shuffle their commercial lineup a little bit. Even with all the exposure, I’m pretty sure that shark movie somehow failed to make a splash in the ratings department. Also, every time I see the “your mouth looks dry” Coke ad, I can’t help but think that it’s definitely a different and much younger guy who actually throws down the dunk. Does that make sense to anyone else?

OK, maybe I’m complaining too much, but not without cause. These are the types of thoughts that run through your head when you wake up one morning to find yourself tied for 15th place and out of contention in the YDN’s bracket pool. I’m also bitter about missing the most hotly contested opening rounds of the Big Dance in years.

It is rare for so many marquis teams to bow out this early. Upsets of brand-name programs like UConn, Kansas and Wake Forest have made the first two rounds of this tournament particularly memorable. Unfortunately, the departure of those elite squads may have undermined the caliber of the matchups for this coming weekend.

I’ll be honest: West Virginia against Texas Tech really isn’t going to do it for me. While Washington-Louisville is an enticing matchup, it’s hard not to foresee the Albuquerque Regional Final descending into the depths of boredom, unless Pitino and Knight are pitted against each other with a spot in the Final Four on the line. If only because all four No. 1 seeds have never advanced to the Final Four together, I’ll take Louisville to knock off Washington before sending the General packing.

I’m definitely a little disappointed with the fallout in the Syracuse Region. I’ve had tickets to those games since last summer, and they were definitely looking spectacular on Selection Sunday. Then the region had to lose most of its firepower. I was hoping to see UConn-Kansas on Friday night, but now a Wisconsin-N.C. State “barnburner” with a final score unlikely to rival the local temperatures is on tap. (I think 49-46 State sounds about right.) Meanwhile, I liked Villanova’s chances to knock off Carolina before the tournament began, but the injury to Curtis Sumpter might be the Tarheels’ free pass to St. Louis. Even though the distraction of a potential Final Four game against Duke might set North Carolina up for a fall, UNC has too many athletes for Wisconsin or N.C. State.

The Blue Devils’ road through Austin might be more challenging than it appears. The popular pre-tourney pick to derail Duke in the Sweet Sixteen was Syracuse, but Michigan State can certainly challenge the No. 1 seed because the Spartans have depth and rebounding advantages. I’m sure CBS is rooting for a No. 1 Duke-No. 2 Kentucky Regional Final with the unrealistic hope that it could possibly live up to its 1992 and 1998 precedents, but I’d look for Michigan State or Utah to trip up one of the top seeds. Since I had Duke over Utah in my original bracket, I’ll stick with that.

On paper, the Chicago Region appears to be most likely to produce palatable matchups. Illinois might blow out Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but the enmity between Bruce Pearl and Illini fans might inject some juice into the rout. At the bottom of that bracket, Oklahoma State-Arizona is the only No. 2 vs. No. 3 game. Either one of those teams could give Illinois a battle in the Elite Eight. Even though Arizona is playing better, I’ll take Oklahoma State because of their experience from last year. I think Illinois’s home-court edge will be enough to keep the Cowboys from making the Final Four again.

In case these picks don’t pan out, I’d like to add a disclaimer that the combination of break and CBS deprived me of the knowledge needed to call these games correctly.

Final Four: Louisville, North Carolina, Duke, Illinois.

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